As the pandemic shut down businesses, home-based businesses (or cottage industries) opened in profusion. While most of these were wholesome, a few were wholesale scams. One example is that some lawyers cooped up at home started sending scads of copyright violation notices to small business owners who had used photos from Google Images on their websites or social media. The demand was for $700-800 per image! The scam? Often, these lawyers did not represent the photographer or have copyright to the images they were claiming to defend!
How can you protect yourself? Three options:
- Buy images from Shutterstock or a similar service. Save your receipts. If you get a demand letter, your receipts prove you have the right to use the image.
- Take your own photos. If you do, add a watermark across the photo so that it is harder for a malcontent to use your photos. You may want to apply online for copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office.
- Use a free stock image site such as Pexels.com. When you are writing the content for your website or social media, copy and paste the image and its URL into your document. (You do not need to copy the URL into your website or social media post.)