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Follow the rules when using digital images

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo

16054704_s.jpgEvery available statistic proves that images are critical to social media and overall communications campaign success. Worthwhile images and video can stimulate a proverbial viral riot over a topic or product. Therefore, many businesses, bloggers and digital media mavens invest in beautiful photographs to add to their websites, blogs and social media posts to increase engagement.

What some may not realize, however, is that all images are owned by someone. If you aren’t the photographer, someone else is and, typically, that photographer owns the rights to the image. Without proper permission, the image could become a serious point of contention or a reason for expensive litigation. To avoid stepping into undesirable circumstances, follow these tips when selecting, posting and utilizing images for campaigns, blogs, websites or posts:

  • Use (and watermark) your own images. Nearly everyone has (or has access to) a digital device that can quickly snap a photograph – and more to the point, many of us do on a daily basis. To ensure that your photos are protected, take them yourself (or hire a photographer from whom you gain exclusive-use permission). Further, invest in watermarking software to copyright your images to make certain that no one else snags them from the digital domain and claims them for themselves. If you aren’t a professional photographer, don’t worry. Plenty of websites exist to provide advice on how to take good selfies or use technical aspects of your mobile phone to enhance photos.

  • Purchase a subscription to a reputable stock photography service. iStock and Shutterstock are the most well-known image vendors that make images available for purchase (either individually or via subscription). And should you find yourself in need of a large number of digital images, these sites offer voluminous selections. Avoid the lesser-known stock image companies as some of them are scams and could easily thieve credit card or identification information that could cost you much more in the end.

  • Give photo credit and/or list photo source on all images. The most important rule of thumb is to never use images without permission. A subset of that rule is to always give photo credit to the owner of the image or list the source of the photo each time you use an image. All reputable media outlets follow these rules, and anyone who communicates digitally should also follow them. Should you fail to follow the rules, you may one day receive a legal demand letter requesting payment for your use of images that don’t belong to you. Make no mistake; companies that specialize in images (stock or otherwise) invest a multitude of man-hours scouring digital platforms to find infringers. The most recognizable is Getty Images (owner of iStock), which is downright aggressive in its efforts to defend its intellectual property. If you’re not using your own images, always be absolutely diligent in identifying proper source credit and permission.

For more details about the do’s and don’ts of image use, we encourage you to join Axia Public Relations’ webinar, hosted by founder Jason Mudd who highlights key components to consider when developing a communications plan.

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Wendy-color.jpgWendy Bulawa Agudelo has more than 15 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked for Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy Bulawa Agudelo. Connect with Axia on Twitter @axiapr or tell us what you think in the comments below.






Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, shared media

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