If you’ve ever taken an image from Google search to use on your blog, you need to read this blog post. It’s both humiliating and anxiety inducing to write all of this down, but I’ve been carrying this secret for over a year now and I want to make sure that no other blogger has to go through it.
In February 2014, I created a post about a green pepper coupon. (Yes, there are actually sometimes coupons for green peppers) Anyway, I finished creating the post and instead of doing the RIGHT thing which would have been to either pay for a stock image or take my own photo, I went to Google, typed in “Green Pepper” found one that I liked, Right click->, Save As and uploaded it to my blog post…and then I forgot about it.
In October 2014, I get an email from an attorney with a large attachment which to me looked like a Cease & Desist regarding the photo. I promptly removed the image and repled that I had complied with the request and removed the image. No big deal, right? WRONG! The attorney immediately responded and said the removal of the image was not good enough, and that we would have to talk damages. DAMAGES? I thought. Okay? So I went to the photographers site to see how much he was asking for his ‘green pepper’ picture, figuring I would pay the fee and carry on.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER WAS ASKING $750 FOR A PHOTO OF A GREEN PEPPER!!
But it got worse, the legal documents were now asking for $7,500 for damages. At this point, I started to worry and do some Googling, maybe this was some scam that was happening. I looked up the attorney. It checked out. While Googling, I found dozens of message board threads accusing this same attorney of extortion 🙁 I then emailed the attorney back and lambasted her for extorting money from me for a picture that could easily be purchased on a stock photo site for a couple dollars.
Now here’s where things get a little screwy. After some more Googling, I found out that the copyright holder of the image owned a collection of spammy travel related sites, stuff like “jamaicacondorentalsbythebeach.com”. (not his real website, but you get the picture) On each of these websites, he had a link to a “gallery”. The gallery housed the image of the green pepper with the keyword “Green pepper” linked to the image. I bet you are probably wondering WHY in the world he would have his PRIZED green pepper images on a travel site. Well you see, the more sites that link to his green pepper images the higher up in Google image search they appear. The higher they appear the more likely someone is to use it without authorization, which would allow him to sue. Besides myself, I know of one other person this ‘photographer’ sued. This WAS a racket. This man was purposefully optimizing his images for search to trap people who used them and then would sue them.
I brought this up to his attorney and she suggested that I get an attorney, because she wasn’t going anywhere, I was at fault and she was going to make sure I paid the damages. And so I did just that. I got an Intellectual Property attorney and told him the situation. His advice was to settle the claim. Even though the likelihood that this would go to court was small, if it did I could be held responsible for the damages AS WELL AS the court costs! You see there is this loophole in copyright infringement cases that CAN require defendants to pay the court costs..he said the could likely exceed $50-$100k dollars.
I can’t tell you how many nights I worried and cried over this. Dozens of nights. Weeks. I spent days sick to my stomach. I eventually settled the claim for less than they were asking…but still wayyyyy more than I ever wanted to pay for a stinking stock photo. Plus, I had to pay several hundred dollars in lawyers fees….all for a picture of a green pepper.
Please, please, please learn from my mistake! Don’t EVER take something from Google! If you need an image from your blog, I recommend going to Allthefreestock.com which houses hundreds of FREE stock photos for your blog!