Yesterday, I found out that one of my photos was being used on a blog that had not contacted me or the dancer in question for use.
Also, I saw an eBay ad on Facebook that was using a photo of a different dancer that had been posted without my permission or the dancers.
In this day and age, photographers MUST use the internet to promote themselves. It's just a fact. There is a misconception though that anything that's put up by a photographer is then "free game" to anyone. This is SIMPLY not the case.
AN EXCELLENT RULE OF THUMB FOR USING OTHER PEOPLE’S PHOTOS:
If you do not have specific permission (preferably written!) from the owner of the rights in a photo, you cannot legally copy it, display it on a website, post it on Facebook, send it around by Email or other means, make prints of it, sell it, or otherwise use or exploit it.
If you are a photographer, and someone is making use of your photos without your permission, the answer is normally, “No, they have no right to,” except for the rare case of “Fair Use.”
DON'T just take photos off the Internet and use them for your event or publicity or advertising. Just because something is on the internet with no credit or information (or more times than not, WITH the proper watermark that CLEARLY denotes who the work belongs to), doesn't mean that it doesn't belong to someone else.
“I got the photo off the Internet, the owner’s own website, Facebook, MySpace, a ‘public’ website, Google, or whatever . . . so it is in the 'Public Domain'.”
There is a huge misunderstanding of the term "Public Domain." The term has the specific legal meaning that no one owns the photo; anyone can use it as he wishes. There are only two ways for a photo to fall into the public domain.
1. The owner clearly gives up his rights, such as by signing and publishing a document saying, "I now give up my copyright and irrevocably place this work in the public domain." OR
2. Through passage of time. The term of copyright depends on several factors, including the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright extends for the life of the creator plus 70 more years. As a practical matter, no recent photo will have fallen into the public domain through passage of time.
When a rights–owner posts a photo anywhere on the Internet, he does not lose his rights. This rule applies to his own website, Facebook, MySpace, and other “social networks,” or to photo portfolio or hosting sites like Flickr, Tumblr, or Photobucket. Making a photo available for public viewing does not put it in the public domain.
This fact reflects well–established copyright law. When a photo is printed in a book or magazine or displayed in an art gallery or museum, it is not thrown into the public domain for anyone to copy.
Likewise, when an owner displays his photo in cyberspace. There have been many copyright cases involving infringing websites which got their content from the internet—and courts have awarded judgments in the millions of dollars against the pirates.
Sometimes an infringer will post photos to websites, social media, and other Internet places without the owner’s knowledge or against the owner's wishes. Examples include the many infringing copies of thousands of photos owned by Playboy, Penthouse, and top photographers. Such posts are themselves violations of copyright. Then other infringers copy the photos from such places and republish them. Obviously if the original unauthorized postings violated copyright—as is typically the case—the secondary copying and misuse is equally illegal.
An interesting and common situation involves people who stock their websites, blogs or Email newsletters (or for that matter, print media ads or direct mail) by copying photos they find through Google or other search engines. Google itself finds, makes thumbnails, copies and displays photos without asking the owners’ permission. Virtually every photo displayed through Google “image search” is there without the owner’s permission. So someone who infringes by copying photos he got through Google is still violating copyright; getting the photos through Google does not excuse the infringement. The owner did not give permission, and Google had no right to give any permission.
Some experts say that Google’s own image search function, and its video operation YouTube, are illegal infringement–based business models. Similar arguments have been made about Yahoo! and other search engines’ image search functions. So far the courts have let the search engines get away with this copying, saving them from liability for untold billions of dollars for copyright infringement. But it is clear that taking and using photos from Google and other search engines without permission of the actual copyright holder, is still infringement.
In short, taking photos from cyberspace, and using them elsewhere such as on your own website is copyright infringement, and you risk the severe penalties of copyright infringement. This is about the protection of artist’s work and our ability to make a living. Please be considerate!