Most businesses with a web presence are familiar with shopping for stock photography. If you’ve used stock photos you’re sure to have heard of Getty Images, a stock provider that’s now facing a $1 billon lawsuit. This lawsuit began when photographer Carol Highsmith received a threatening letter from the website, claiming that she’d used their images without paying. The image in question was actually one that she’d taken herself and donated to the Library of Congress. Images owned by the Library of Congress are available to the general public free of charge. It turns out Highsmith is not the first to receive one of these threatening letters. She’s making sure, however, that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Highsmith has been donating images to the Library of Congress since 1988. She has now uncovered that almost 19,000 of these photos are for sale as stock photos by from Getty Images. This isn’t the first time Getty Images has been in court over a dispute like this. In 2013 they paid Daniel Moreal $1.2 million in a similar lawsuit.
There are better options for stock photography
There are plenty of better options if you have stock photography needs but would like to avoid working with Getty Images. Pexels.com and Morguefile.com, for example, offer large libraries of free stock photography! If you can’t find what you’re looking for on their sites, they’ll suggest images from partner websites.
Another free option is the creative common section of Flickr. They have several types of creative commons photos, some of which require attribution and others of which don’t. If you require a large number of stock images per month you may also want to check out the Adobe Stock Library — they have an impressive selection and monthly pricing options. These images are even more affordable if you’re already a Creative Cloud member.
Best practices for using stock photography
While the notice that Carol Highsmith received from Getty Images was erroneous, it is important to remember to be careful with the images that you use. One common mistake is using photos found on Google Images, while this may seem harmless you should avoid it at all costs! It is very easy for the license holder to discover unauthorized use of images. Unless the website where the image appears states that it is free of charge, the odds are that this is not the case.
It’s important to be familiar with and follow all usage instructions. Never use an image that requires attribution without citing the source. If you do so, you can get in just as much trouble as you would for using the image without paying for the rights. Being well informed will also help you spot false claims like those sent by Getty Images.
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