Scams and not so free “free” images

Don’t fall for the this latest plastic surgery scam!

In July we received a confusing phone call from Uganda. A man with a thick accent wanted help arranging the booking of his plastic surgery procedure – he was coming to the states and thought he’d have a little work done while he was here. We don’t know how he got our number, but he was keenly interested in setting up a surgery. We politely informed him that we market plastic surgeons and that we were not actually surgeons. It took three calls for that to finally sink in. We were left wondering what was going on.

Then we found this:

Scammers book surgery and send a payment well over the cost of the procedure, then ask for the difference to be sent back to them for travel expenses. The payment is usually in the form of a fake cashier’s check or credit card. The bank takes a while to process the legitimacy, but since the plastic surgeon has good credit, the money is made available, lulling the unsuspecting surgeon into sending his money overseas to be lost forever.

Make sure all checks and payments clear before ever issuing any reimbursements or rendering service.

Royalty Free Images Aren’t So Free: the Dangers of Copyright Reviewed

Last week one of our clients posted a stock image without purchasing the rights. We caught it and alerted them and they promptly took it down. The practice’s workflow had a kink that day and the wrong image was posted. No harm, but it could have been a huge penalty.

Posting photos in social media is tricky for businesses. Most, if not all, stock photo agencies do not allow their photos to be posted unaltered into a social media space. Another issue involves older stock images you purchased for a non-digital use: you probably are not allowed to use them digitally.

If you commissioned work from a vendor and they used stock images to create the work, even if you now have access to them, you cannot use those stock images because your vendor is the rights holder. You will need to purchase those images yourself, or have your vendor post the image as part of their work on your social media page or wherever you wanted to use that content.

What about images found in a Google image search? You do not own the copyright, you are not allowed to use them. The practice you represent or own is worth enough money to attract the attention of lawyers. And it doesn’t take much to attract notice.

A copywriting firm out of British Columbia used a small image found in a Google search and assumed it was public domain, so they used it on a client’s site. Later, after they received “cease and desist” and settlement offer of $4000, they found out it was a copy protected stock image that sold for $10. The copywriting firm accepted the terms and paid the four grand. Why? Because copyright penalties can go up to $30,000 and that’s if you didn’t know. If it can be proved that you willfully infringed on the copyright, you could face a $150,000 fine.

And it is not a case of luck, or lack there of in the copywriting firm’s case. All stock image companies, and many individuals, employ a variety of tracking tools, like Companies like Picscout employ armies of bot-programs to comb through  all the images on the web and use “fingerprints” or invisible, un-removable watermarks, to ID copyrighted works. When an image is found, it’s compared to the database and if the use is not authorized, you get a letter from a lawyer.

You can however use images distributed under the Creative Commons license. These images, often found in wikis, can be distributed and edited freely, usually on the condition you attribute the image to the author. Images found in the public domain can also be used freely and do not require attribution. And images created by U.S. government agencies are usually public domain, so feel free to use that gorgeous “Blue Marble” photo however you’d like.

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