Be careful about copyrighted images on websites, sales materials

Graphic designers often like to “borrow” photographs and other artwork in order to create websites, brochures, direct-mail solicitations and other materials. But it’s important to make sure that you have a legal right to the images and designs you’re using.

A company called Dream Communications found this out the hard way recently, when a designer used a photograph without permission in creating an online magazine about luxury homes in Hawaii. The owner of the image sued, claiming that it was entitled to almost $8,000 in licensing fees.

But Dream’s problems became a nightmare when a court added penalties under the federal copyright law. In the end, Dream was ordered to pay the owner $45,000 in damages, plus almost $7,000 in attorney fees and costs.

There are a number of companies that license “stock art” for business use at a modest cost, as well as websites that offer some artwork for free. Whatever you do, make sure you have a legal right to the images you’re using.

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