There seems to be a past of posts on FB lately about people receiving letters from companies regarding copyright theft and demanding money for the use of the images as well as the removal of the images.
I’m not 100% sure why this should be happening, especially in an age where Google makes it easy to find copyright owners or where Shutterstock and Getty etc make it easy to purchase stock images.
Put simply if you do not own the image copyright or do not have a license to use the image you are committing copyright theft. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it is open and fair for people to take it.
This is the same as if you went into Waitrose and walked out with a basket of food without paying – it is theft. Just because it is on the shelves doesn’t mean it is ok for you to take it.
If you use images commercially you HAVE to pay for their use.
If you use images personally you don’t.
If you want images for commercial use, pay for them. Pay Shutterstock or such. Hire a professional photographer to do your own images (more personalised and on brand.)
Asking for advice once you have been found it is too late. Be proactive, search your blogs and websites and check the copyright/licenses are in order. If not remove the image immediately from your website as well as the archives.
Personally (Bristol wedding photography) I check a wide variety of current and older images once per month via Google to check for online copyright theft. I don’t mind people using my images – as long as they ask first. If they don’t ask and use them they get a polite letter and an invoice for the use. If they pay the invoice I send the money to a military charity. If they don’t pay the invoice and start to be arsey about it then the Small Claims Court comes into it.
It. Is. That. Simple.