Be careful about using copyrighted images

If you own a business and you have a website or use brochures or other sales materials, it’s important to be careful about “borrowing” photographs or other artwork to create your designs. It’s wise to make certain that you have a legal right to all the images you’re using – even if you hired someone else to design the materials.

A company called Dream Communications found this out the hard way recently, when a designer used a photograph without permission in creating an online magazine about luxury homes in Hawaii. The owner of the image sued, claiming that it was entitled to almost $8,000 in licensing fees.

Dream’s problems became a nightmare when a court added penalties under the federal copyright law. In the end, Dream was ordered to pay the owner $45,000 in damages, plus almost $7,000 in attorney fees and costs.

There are a number of companies that license “stock art” for business use at a modest cost, as well as websites that offer artwork for free. Whatever you do, make sure you have a legal right to the images you’re using.