Legal Marketing

The Importance of Proper Image Sourcing for Your Law Firm Blog

Attorneys Websites and Copyright

Do You Have Thousands to Spare on a 6-Year-Old Law Firm Blog Post?

copyright infringement penalty for law office websites

Imagine this: A simple blog post on your law firm’s website, from six years ago with a tiny image copied from the internet ends up costing you thousands of dollars. This isn’t a hypothetical situation; it’s a harsh reality that many businesses face. If you think you’re safe from copyright infringement claims, think again. The recent US Supreme Court ruling in Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Nealy proves just how real and expensive these issues can be.

Why This Matters to You

Whether you’re a small business owner, a marketer, or an attorney, copyright infringement can hit you hard. The Supreme Court’s decision now allows for larger damages awards for plaintiffs, even if the infringement occurred years ago. This could mean unexpected lawsuits and hefty settlements, all because of a seemingly insignificant image on your website.

Our Personal Experience

At StudioHOF and Local Legal Marketing, we’ve always advised our clients to be cautious about using images from the internet without proper copyright checks. Despite our best efforts, we’ve had three clients over the last decade sued for copyright infringement over minor images in blog posts. Recently, we faced a lawsuit ourselves for a five-year-old blog post featuring a small image of a Google display at a trade show in France. Although the statute of limitations is typically three years, it starts when the infringement is discovered, not when it occurred.

This lawsuit cost us thousands of dollars in settlement, money that could have been used to support our business operations. It was a tough lesson, but one that underscores the importance of proper image sourcing.

The Supreme Court Ruling

supreme court ruling copyright protection

On May 9, 2024, the US Supreme Court ruled that there is no three-year limit on monetary damages for timely filed copyright infringement claims. The 6-3 decision in Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Nealy opens the doors to larger potential damages awards for plaintiffs and is likely to lead to increased litigation over older infringements. The majority assumed that the “discovery rule,” which means claims accrue when they are discovered, applied to Nealy’s claims.

Impact on Your Law Firm Marketing

This ruling has far-reaching implications. It essentially means that there is no real statute of limitations for copyright claims if the infringement is discovered later. This puts businesses at significant risk, especially those with older content that may have used images without proper sourcing.

How to Protect Your Law Firm From Website Copyright Infringement Claims

To safeguard your business against copyright infringement claims, it’s essential to:

1. Source Images Correctly

Always use images from sources that explicitly grant permission for use. Services like Shutterstock, Getty Images, or any other reputable stock image provider are excellent options.

2. Keep Detailed Records

Maintain a record of where each image was sourced from, including the date of download and the licensing agreement. This can be crucial evidence if you ever face a lawsuit.

3. Update Your Content

If you cannot verify the source of any image on your website, replace it with a properly sourced image. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Educate Your Team

Ensure that everyone involved in content creation understands the importance of using properly sourced images and the potential legal ramifications of failing to do so.

Our Process

At StudioHOF and Local Legal Marketing, we use an online service for image sourcing. We store images by client and can show any attorney at any time where we obtained the images and that there is no copyright issue. We also disclose this information in our privacy center on a page dedicated to media credits.

Conclusion

Don’t let a simple mistake cost you thousands of dollars. Protect your business by sourcing images correctly, keeping detailed records, and updating your content as needed. Remember, it’s not just about avoiding lawsuits for copyright infringement on your law firm’s website; it’s about maintaining the integrity and professionalism of your website, especially if you’re in the legal industry.

FAQ

Q: What is the discovery rule in copyright infringement cases?

A: The discovery rule means that the statute of limitations for copyright infringement claims starts when the infringement is discovered, not when it occurred.

Q: How can I ensure the images on my website are properly sourced?

A: Use reputable stock image services, keep detailed records of image sources, and educate your team on the importance of proper image sourcing.

Q: What should I do if I can’t verify the source of an image on my website?

A: Replace the image with one from a reputable source that grants explicit permission for use.

Q: Why is it important for attorneys to adhere to copyright laws?

A: Attorneys are held to a higher standard due to their position in the law. Violating copyright laws can damage their professional reputation and credibility.

For more information, refer to the original article on Lexology: Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Nealy or visit the US Copyright Website.

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