if it could happen to us..

by Team Broady on Friday, April 5, 2024
Protecting Yourself from Copyright Infringement Laws

Marketing is a fundamental requirement for a busy real estate team like ours. We must maintain a strong online presence through a professional-looking website and active social media profiles. We write our own real estate blogs and articles, whose content can range from educational, to community events, to inspirational stories. As well, we constantly promote and advertise our listings through various channels to attract new business. We have also been publishing our own print magazine for over two years now, delivered to over 14,000 homes in the West Island. To execute at this level requires a solid understanding of graphic design, editing, printing and distribution, search engine optimization (SEO), artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms, as well as video production, Instagram reels and email campaigns. 

Creating content has become an integral part of any marketing plan. Because we are striving to develop enticing social media and blog posts, we often search the Internet for a suitable image or graphics to accompany the written content. It can be very tempting, and sometimes all too easy, to find a great online image and simply copy and paste it into our blog, without realizing the implications. 

Online copyright infringement and piracy has been a huge concern since the early days of the Internet. Some of us may remember downloading music illegally from platforms such as Napster or LimeWire. Others might have used BitTorrent or other “peer-to-peer” platforms to download or share movies or TV shows for free. All of these are examples of copyright infringement, and can potentially land you in hot water, although the risks of getting caught are still relatively low.

For small businesses or online bloggers, the use of copyright-protected images can be a little riskier. There are firms that now employ AI “bots” that literally scan the Internet 24/7 looking for any online content that contains unlicensed, copyright-protected material for their book of clients. 

We recently learned this lesson the hard way when we received a letter from one of these firms informing us that we had used an image that belonged to a client they represent without permission. The letter came complete with screenshots of our blog page (from 2021) showing the image in question embedded in our article. They demanded that we not only remove the image in question from our blog immediately, but that we compensate their client for damages.

Apparently this firm has the time and resources to track down hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting small businesses and bloggers like us each year, and send them threatening letters similar to the one we received, hoping that they’ll pay the damages out of fear of further repercussions. 

The fact is, there are thousands of images and graphics available through the Internet that should not be used without the appropriate authorization, as these works are protected by copyright. Many of these can be found by using a simple Google search, and they can be easily copied and pasted without anyone realizing that they’re legally protected. It’s an innocent crime, but unfortunately, ignorance never trumps the law. Copyright grants exclusive rights to creators of original works, including images and videos. These rights protect the creators' works from being used without their permission.

Although we are not fans of Internet trolls and bots, they are now an unfortunate reality of these times. Many of us are unaware that the Internet is being scanned for images, videos and even metadata to find a match between image creators and content providers. Therefore, if you’re posting online and want to understand copyright laws in Canada, here are the basics on how to protect yourself from copyright infringement penalties:

Identify and Choose Reputable Stock Content Providers: 
To minimize the risk of copyright infringement, it is advisable to use stock images and videos from reputable providers. Look for well-established platforms that have proper licensing agreements with content creators. Some popular stock content providers include Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Canva and Getty Images.

Familiarize Yourself with Licensing Types:
a. Royalty-free: With this licence, you pay a one-time fee, and the content can be used multiple times without additional charges. However, there may be restrictions on usage, such as the number of copies or distribution methods.
b. Rights-managed: This licence permits the use of content under specific conditions as agreed upon with the provider. These may include limitations on usage duration, geographic location, or exclusivity.

Read the Terms and Conditions Carefully:
To ensure compliance with copyright laws, it is crucial to carefully read and understand the terms and conditions of the stock content provider. Pay attention to usage limitations, acceptable forms of usage, and any restrictions or requirements for giving credit to the creator.

Conduct Thorough Research:
Check for any recognizable trademarks or materials in the content that might require additional permissions or releases.

Test Using Samples:
Some stock content providers offer watermarked previews that can be used for mock-ups and drafts. This allows you to test the suitability of the content without committing to a purchase.

Keep Records of Licences and Usage:
This documentation will be invaluable if any questions of copyright infringement arise in the future.

Using stock images and videos can be an efficient and cost-effective way to enhance content creation. Always remember to undertake due diligence, maintain proper records, and stay informed about any changes in copyright regulations to avoid legal complications.

At TEAM BROADY, we understand the importance of educating our audience, especially when it’s based on a lesson we’ve learned ourselves and can hopefully help prevent others from making a same mistake. If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, we can be reached at 514-613-2988 or by email at info@teambroady.ca. Contact us today!