Creatives confess to image misuse

Publishing, marketing and PR workers have a sizeable knowledge gap in how to legally use images on the internet – and seem uninspired to bridge it with best practice techniques.

A survey of more than 2,000 creative workers shows that more than one third use images they find online without consent, potentially exposing themselves to legal challenge.

But rather than realising the error of their ways, more than eight out of ten of the creatives said they didn’t feel guilty about using an image without permission from its owner.

Releasing the “worrying” finding, online photo portal Polylooks said creative teams were undermining the value that artists and photographers derive from posting their creations online.

Owners of graphics or images are drawn to uploading to either earn money, showcase their work, or both, the portal said, but other creatives are dampening the appeal, knowingly or through their ignorance.

In fact, when presented with a number of definitions, only a fifth of the creatives correctly chose the one which meant ‘royalty free,’ indicating knowledge of such licences is poor.

Almost half of the respondents thought ‘royalty free’ meant the image it pertained to was free to use unconditionally, when actually it means they must buy the image and use it with certain restrictions.

An image labelled ‘rights managed’ was even more troubling to the creatives, half of whom had budgets for image-buying, as only 16.5 per cent knew what it meant.

“There is still a great deal of confusion when it comes to using photos or illustrations that photographers and artists have made available for sale online,” said Norbert Weber, product manager at Polylooks.

“Many people who should be paying for the right to use images are not doing so due to a lack of understanding on industry rules and terminologies.”

That lack of understanding is not only a risk to artists and photographers, but also to the very websites which they upload their images to, in pursuit of exposure or income, or both.

In the survey, more than eight of ten creatives said they were unfamiliar with the term ‘microstock:’ “[This] presents stock image providers…with a challenge,” said Weber. “Is it time we redefined what we offer?”


Feb 9, 2010
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