Web Developer Pro-Tip: What images can I use on my firm website?

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By Omnizant Team
Law Firm Marketing Agency

Although you may be able to find a good photo in a Google search, chances are you can’t use the image on your law firm’s website without purchasing the license or, at the least, without having written permission from the photographer. Far too often, we hear from attorneys who have received a large bill from an image provider because they did not have the proper license to use the photo. While purchasing the original image may have only cost the firm seventy-five dollars, the bill for damages and licenses can wind up costing the practice thousands of dollars. To avoid this common mistake, follow the tips below:

  • Purchase your photos from reputable stock photography sites. Some popular ones include istockphoto.com, bigstockphoto.com and shutterstock.com. These sites have millions of images available for purchase. Depending on the license and photo, the price for an image can vary dramatically.
  • Utilize free stock photo sites like everystockphoto.com and Stock.XCHNG which allow you to download images for free. But be careful and review the license of each photo prior to uploading it to your site; some may be included in marketing pieces while others cannot. Read the fine print to ensure you’re not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property.
  • For photos of landmarks or landscapes, local photographers are often the way to go. If you find a photo in an online gallery or on another company’s site, be sure to contact the photographer directly to purchase the rights to the image. Keep documentation of all transactions to prove that you hold license should a dispute arise down the line.
  • If you can’t find a photo on a stock or local photographer’s site, you might consider turning to Flickr to see what’s online. Flickr is an online storage system where individuals can post and share photos. Just as with all other online photos, you shouldn’t use the image on your website without permission, so be sure to contact the owner directly (the site has a messaging function) to ask if the photo may be used. Many of the account holders are amateur photographers or just folks who take photos for fun and many will grant permission provided that you give them credit for the work on your site.
  • Very often, firms have their legal assistants, law clerks and summer interns work on the firms’ websites. Unfortunately, these individuals may not be familiar with intellectual property law and wrongfully use photos without an understanding of the ramifications. If you are delegating your website development or upkeep projects to other members on your team, it’s essential that you discuss the guidelines and set strict rules on where images, and copy, may be obtained for the site. To cover all of your bases, you may even consider having your staff send you the photos, along with proper documentation, for approval before they are ever uploaded to your site.

It’s important to note that buying a photo for your website does not necessarily mean that it can be used across all of your marketing pieces (a brochure, sign, commercial, etc). Be certain to identify exactly how an image will be used and then make sure you purchase the correct license which covers all marketing collateral. If a photo is critical to your brand, you may consider buying exclusive rights to it. This can be far more expensive but keeps others from using the image.

At Omnizant, we’re pleased to offer all of our clients unlimited stock images through our extensive photo library. Contact us today to learn more.

About the Author
Since 2006, Omnizant's team of digital marketing experts, designers, developers and writers has helped over 2,000 law firms develop powerful websites that drive business growth.