What Happens If You Use Copyrighted Images Without Permission?

You’re browsing through Google Images, searching for a photo to use on your website or blog. When you find one, you’re happy to download and plop it in place.

But it’s not a legal thing to do – unauthorized copyright infringement can result in a court order, fines, and escalated legal action.

Copyright infringement

Copyright is one of many categories of intellectual property (IP) protection. It was created to encourage the creation of original works and protect the rights of the creators.

When you use a copyrighted image without permission, you’re infringing on the copyright owner’s rights. This can be a costly and frustrating experience, so it’s important to understand the law around this topic.

If you’re not sure whether or not an image is protected, check the image’s metadata to determine if it has a copyright notice. Also, contact the owner of the image and ask for permission to use it.

In some cases, you may be able to use a copyrighted image under fair use. This means you can use it for a purpose not involving commercial profit, but you must still provide proper attribution.

You must also avoid copyright infringement if you’re using Rider University’s network, including the campus or residence hall networks. If you do, it’s a violation of the university’s Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy and may result in disciplinary action or revocation of your access.

While most images are protected by copyright, it’s important to remember that some copyright-protected images are in the public domain. These are often the most valuable, so make sure you have the correct license to use them for your business needs.

The term of copyright for creative works in the United States is typically extended to 70 years after the death of the author or up to 120 years after the work was produced under corporate authorship. This extends the life of the copyright and gives the original creator some time to sell or dispose of the original work.

If a copyrighted image has been used for a commercial purpose, then you must pay damages to the image’s owner. These can include monetary compensation, legal fees, and court costs.

In addition, you’re required to destroy the infringing copy. If you fail to do so, you could face criminal penalties for willful infringement, which can include up to five years in prison.

As a small business, you need to be aware of copyright law and your rights as an owner. You should always ask for permission before using a copyrighted image and be clear about your copyright policy with customers. If you need help, be sure to consult with a copyright lawyer.

DMCA takedown notices

If you discover that someone is using your copyrighted images without permission, you can try to get them to remove the infringing content. One option is to send them a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice.

DMCA takedown notices are an important tool to protect your intellectual property and help you manage your reputation online. These notices are sent to ISPs, search engines and web hosts in order to prevent them from displaying infringing material on their platforms. They are also used by law enforcement agencies and other legal professionals to prosecute illegal activities.

There are certain requirements you need to meet in order for your DMCA takedown notices to be accepted. These include providing a valid DMCA agent, including an email address, and submitting the notice to the right party.

The DMCA also requires that you include the correct information about the infringing content. This means you must identify the work, its title and location of infringing activity. It is also critical that you provide a link to the website or other platform where it is being displayed.

If the infringement occurs on multiple websites, it is best to issue separate DMCA takedown notices for each site. This will help you to track and respond to infringement quickly and efficiently.

You should also include a signature in your DMCA takedown notice. This signature should be from the owner of the work or the person authorized to act on their behalf. It doesn’t matter if the signature is physical or electronic, but it should state below that it is from the owner.

A DMCA takedown notice must also include a statement that the information is accurate and that you are authorized to act on behalf of the copyright protected materials owner. This is a requirement under federal law, and those who make false claims can be sued.

Once a copyright owner receives a DMCA takedown notice, they are obligated to remove the infringing material. This usually happens within 10 days, but it can vary depending on the infringement and the company that received the notice.

Legal action

If you use copyrighted images without permission, the image’s owner can take legal action. They can sue you for monetary damages, including statutory damages (which may be much higher than your license fee) and attorney fees.

One of the most common legal actions is a cease and desist letter. This is sent by a lawyer to tell the person using an image that they are infringing on the rights of the owner. This is done so that the person does not continue to use the image on their website or in print.

This can be a long and expensive process, so it is a good idea to hire an attorney for this type of legal action. A lawyer can help you understand your options, advise you on what to do next and negotiate a fair resolution with the image’s owner.

Generally, the best strategy is to contact the person using the image and ask for their permission to use it. Once you have their consent, you can then agree on a license and pay the appropriate fee.

Another strategy is to hire a lawyer who specializes in photography and copyright law. These lawyers can send you a letter to notify you of the unauthorized use, and you will likely be able to obtain a settlement or court judgment if it is successful.

A lawyer who specializes in these issues will be better equipped to represent you in court and ensure you receive the maximum recovery for your infringement. These attorneys typically charge a flat fee to send the letter, or a contingency fee based on a percentage of recovery.

When dealing with a copyrighted image, it is important to remember that the person who owns it is a skilled professional and deserves fair pay for their work. By treating these people with respect and understanding, you can avoid a costly legal battle.

The same is true for any company that uses copyrighted images on its website or in print. To prevent these situations, implement and maintain a robust image management system and educate employees about the importance of protecting copyrighted works. It is also helpful to have a clear image credit policy in place.


Copyright is a legal right that protects the intellectual property of creators. Those who are found to be using copyrighted images without permission can be fined or even sued. In the worst cases, infringement can lead to jail time and large attorney fees.

One way to prevent copyright infringement is by using royalty-free images. These licenses do not require a one-time payment but often limit the use of the image.

If you’re not sure if an image is royalty-free, check the licensing terms before purchasing it. Buying an image without understanding the license terms can be confusing and can lead to costly mistakes.

A simple way to find out if an image is copyrighted is to look for a copyright tag. Many stock photo sites tag their photos with a copyright tag so that the license information is clear to users. You can also check the description page of a Flickr or Google+ album to see if the image is tagged with a specific license.

You can also contact the image creator to see if they’re happy with your use. If they are, you can ask to use the image under a specific license that enables you to do what you want with it.

The license you choose should be compatible with the purpose of your project. For example, if you plan to use the image for commercial purposes, you’ll need to license it under a rights-managed (RM) license. You’ll need to negotiate the conditions of your license and agree to pay a fee.

Another option is to use a Creative Commons (CC) license. These licenses allow others to use your work for free as long as they credit you and follow certain terms, such as attribution and non-commercial usage.

There are six types of creative commons licenses. These are CC0 (Public Domain), Creative Commons Attribution, CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC and CC BY-NC-SA.

CC BY-NC is the most permissive of our creative commons licenses, allowing others to reuse your work with no restrictions, as long as they credit you and comply with the other conditions of the license. This license is also the most flexible of our creative commons licenses, letting others remix and build upon your work as long as they credit you and they license their new creations under the identical terms.

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