Where do you get your photos?

In Members by MaryBeth Smith

Photo by Min Li Lim on Unsplash

As more Feldenkrais® Practitioners create websites, e-newsletters, and social media profiles, it’s time to upgrade our community’s skills and adopt best practices. One recurring issue is the use of photographs on these platforms.

Jay Lee, a prolific freelance photographer in Houston, Texas, is well acquainted with the issue. “I think it is important for people to know that a photograph belongs to the photographer unless that photographer has explicitly granted permission or license for the photo to be used,” he says. “Many people say things like “I found it on Google, so it must be free to use,” Jay continues. “Google is not a clip art gallery.”

Costs and Consequences

Photographers can and do sue people for copyright infringement. Penalties range from $750 for a single infraction, up to $150,000 if the use is frequent and determined to be “willful.” Fines of $5000 for a thumbnail-sized photo are not unusual (Source: Charity Lawyer Blog). Beware: if you find an image online, it may be protected by copyright even if there is no watermark or copyright notice. It is your responsibility to research the image. The days of pleading ignorance are over, and even if you apologize and offer to remove an image you have used, the photographer may or may not be satisfied.

If you have hired a web designer to create your website, you are also responsible for their actions. Make sure your designer has licenses for any images they use. Jay Lee says, “I find my images all the time [online], and the web site owners say ‘my web guy did this.’ They have no idea, and I feel for them, but they need to be educated.” Furthermore, if you use a photo without permission and the owner finds it and files a complaint, it can cost you your web hosting — in other words, they can shut you down. Your website or social media account will be suspended and will disappear. In the Terms of Service for both YouTube and GoDaddy, for example, they disclose this policy – but few people have read the “fine print.” 

Are You In Doubt?

To protect yourself: follow Jay’s flow chart he created for educational purposes. 

Image created by Jay Lee. Used by Permission.


What to do? 

  • Search on Google Images or Flickr by types of license, (Click on “Tools> Usage rights) and only use images that are labeled for re-use.  If you don’t know what some license terms mean, look them up. You’re on Google. 
  • Use legitimate stock-photo sites. Some offer free photos (Unsplash, Pixabay, and MorgueFile, are examples), some ask for a small per-image fee or a donation, and some have paid annual subscriptions. This is a legitimate business expense, and is a small price to pay to be able to use the images you want, legally. It is easy to include a credit in the photo caption. Restore each photographer to their human dignity by crediting them and PAYING THEM.
  • The cheapest and easiest solution is to use images that are in the public domain. The Google Art Project, Wikimedia.org, and CreativeCommons.org  are good sources. OpenCulture.com also has a list of links to sources of free art and images. In addition, the Art Institute of Chicago and New York Public Library have published public domain collections that are free to share and reuse. Some images can be used without attribution, but some require you to post a “copy-paste” attribution in the caption. Doing so helps to keep free and beautiful images available for all!

When you change a habit, it can be hard or easy. Get into the business habit of researching the usage rights on the images you find while browsing online. Awareness helps you to make better choices. Best practices benefit all of us.