Copy, right? Do you know the rights and wrongs around your image use?

Matt Scutt 1st August 2022 B2B Branding, B2B Content Marketing, B2B Storytelling

This weekend, the Spanish government’s beach body advert caused more controversy with a second photographer having their images used without consent, and with insensitive retouching that betrayed the intention behind the initial post. It has gathered a lot of media attention and increasing levels of anger from those ripped off. 

Full disclosure, I am also an Instagram influencer with nearly a quarter of a million following my account to enjoy the shots I take.  As a B2B Creative Director by day and a photographer by night (often literally), you can see the crossover as I specialise in capturing landmarks and architectural scenes in ways you have never seen them before and making you look again – making you reconsider what you thought you already knew, in a new and fresh style. And I, too, have suffered from people stealing my images and using them without consent, so this story really touched a nerve. 

 

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Putting aside the morality of editing someone’s body image (which for me is the most concerning aspect of this story), this story brings into view the importance for B2B marketers of not infringing copyright by using images without consent.   

As the “Great Resignation” sees a merry-go-round of changing staff, many B2B companies have libraries of images saved on their shared folders, which they use without thinking.   

Somewhere, lost in the annals of time, are the rights of use, meaning many sleepwalk into dangerous territory. The Spanish government is showing us all the brand damage that this can cause. And don’t get me started on the quality of that final output, as that too would not be allowed out of our studio! 

 

 

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One of the most difficult challenges with B2B photography is having a library that is unique.  Many brands only use stock libraries, so the same images are used repeatedly. How many times have you seen the shot of the child dressed as Einstein? Too many.  

Therefore, we encourage our clients to consider original photography or to develop treatments that can be applied to stock to make them unique. From colour washes to using meaningful, graphical devices for crops, creativity can conquer – but none more so than when you get an experienced photographer behind the lens to bring your world to life.   

 

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The reason this news article touched a nerve is that copyright infringement like this can cause damage to the photographer, too. Let me explain.  Around 7 years ago, when Instagram changed the format of the feed to allow aspect ratios other than square, I reposted an image of a beautiful spiral staircase – the repost showed a much wider angle than the original square crop.  

Shortly after, I received an email from Instagram stating that I had breached another user’s copyright and my image had been taken down. To my surprise, this user had been stealing photos from my feed and reposting them as their own. And even had the audacity to report me.  

In addition to this, I have repeatedly seen my photos reproduced on websites, holiday postcards, social ads, posters – all without permission. It is theft, pure and simple. 

The impact is in both directions – loss of earnings to the originator and possible compensation levied for copyright infringement for the brand, as well as potentially high-profile damage. No one wins, but my worry is that many B2B marketers will break rights, simply because they don’t understand them.   

I get that there is an inherent risk to posting original content online. It is often reposted without permission, and even worse, without credit for taking the photo. It seems to have become accepted, and worse still, has gnawed away at people’s understandings of what rights are all about. 

So, I wanted to prepare some questions I recommend all B2B marketers ask themselves when considering images: 

What rights should my images have? 

Consider your approach – is original, commissioned, rights-managed or royalty-free photography the most proper route? You’d likely want to avoid seeing your chosen images legally reproduced by competitors. 

What are the image usage rights? 

Can you use it in perpetuity, or is there an expiry date? Are there rules around how it can be used?  Often, there are constraints around resolution, number of reproductions, or how it is used, such as for editorial or advertorial use. If this information is not stored with the image when you buy it, either stock or original, then you are in danger of accidentally breaking the terms.

Royalty-free sounds good but can be used by many companies. So, who else uses it? 

Royalty-free rights mean popular images are often used multiple times by different businesses. This can dilute creative concepts due to cross-pollination of associated messaging. Worse still, you may see your hero image in a campaign for something you want nothing to do with. Something to consider when choosing royalty-free images is to run a reverse-image search using Google or TinEye. It’s not foolproof but might capture other uses which are either too close to your own market or associated with something you find derogatory. 

Somewhere between a Google Image search and violating copyright infringement is the right way of sourcing images. Respecting the intellectual property of the artist is paramount in the process and keeping record of any agreement is essential. The right to copy should not be taken for granted.

Got further questions around image rights? I’d be happy to answer – or tell you more of the tales I’ve experienced! Email me on matt.scutt@velo-b2b.com, or slide into my Instagram DMs 😉

Matt Scutt

Matt Scutt

Creative Director