Everyone loves free stuff. Small business owners, like you and me who are watching our budgets, especially love free stuff. So why pay for images for your website and social media pages when you can use content from the many Free Stock Photo sites which have thousands of great images to choose from?
Yes, of course you can use those Free Stock Photos, but as Albert Einstein said:
“Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
I know what you’re thinking: here we go again, the lawyer putting a damper on things. The lawyer worrying me about my legal risks. Of course I am – that’s my job!
I know, I know, those legal terms are for lawyers. You really don’t want to read them and you really don’t understand them. Don’t fret, here’s some of the most important legal terms to understand before using a free image website:
Identifiable Items in Free Stock Photos
Depicted items in images such as identifiable people, logos, brands etc. typically require the consent of a third party or the license of these rights. Most Free Stock Photo Websites disclaim liability for any legal responsibility. So for example, the Free Stock Photo Website typically doesn’t check that all the content in the images are risk-free. In other words, if someone took a photo and didn’t get a photo release and uploaded the image to a Free Stock Photo Website; and then you used it for any reason, that person in the photo could sue you.
When you use Free Stock Photos, you are using the content at your own legal risk. For example, most Free Stock Photo Websites don’t check that the content copyright is legally owned by the Contributor and don’t check that all images in the content are risk-free. The Website owner disclaims all responsibility and requires you to indemnify (i.e. hold harmless) the Website if a third party makes a claim arising out of your use.
So when you use a Free Stock Photo, you are trusting that the Contributor legally owned and had the right to license its free use to you. If you use an image, and the Contributor did not, you can be legally liable to the true owner.
So yes, you can use those Free Stock Photos. Just be aware that doing so is not legally risk-free.
As the User of a Free Stock Photo, you are completely responsible for any legal infringement of model rights, property rights, trademarks, and copyrights, to name a few.
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