It’s April Fools Day.

No…I’m not getting sued, but you could get sued if you use a graphic that doesn’t belong to you or one that you haven’t bought, or have honored copyright rules.

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A small-time blogger was issued a cease and desist letter from the owner of a graphic the blogger found on Google.com. In it, she discovered that the company was fining her $1,000. If she didn’t pay, they would see her in court. When she went to her own lawyer to see about challenging this outrageous fine, the lawyer said it would be cheaper to pay it.

The blogger researched the company fining her and discovered that the graphic was nowhere near that worth. This company went after a small blogger with reader traffic of less than 500 people a month on a free blog. It’s lucrative to go after small bloggers. They are less likely to afford a lawyer and would end up paying the fine. So the company makes money off of someone like you and me. Whether or not that was the company’s intention, we will never know, and we could speculate all day about their intentions, but as Christians, we live by a different law.

Most Christians will extend grace to other Christians who use their graphics accidentally. WordPress even has a way for owners of graphics to simply file a complaint. WordPress removes the graphic and no one is harmed financially. The bloggers written work is preserved with the graphic deleted. A lot of people are tired of the graphic companies charging too much for graphics. In response to the growing discontent, several companies have come out with alternatives:

  • Morguefile.com: You can use the graphics for free for any purpose provided you alter them in some way. In the graphic above, I added things to the picture. I can’t post these pictures by themselves.
  • Unsplash.com: These are spectacular graphics you can use by itself or altered, for commercial or other purposes. They are high resolution. For some things, you may want to consider reducing the size for videos or whatnot as that can increase the megabytes of that video.
  • Death to the Stock Photo: Same as Unsplash.
  • Canva.com: Free graphics and graphics for $1/each. Very reasonable!
  • Flicker.com: Creative Commons. I love how Flicker outlines specific copyright dos and don’ts on this page. Creative Commons are the ones you can use without permission.

Google.com graphics are not free to the public. The law considers a blogger the same liability as a publisher. Most other photographers (non-commercial ones) and other bloggers may give you permission to use the graphic on your blog by simply leaving a comment asking or sending an email to gain permission. Keep these in your files forever and honor with attribution.

While the blogger who was fined was in the wrong for using a graphic that violated copyright laws, the company should have extended grace to that blogger, by asking her to remove it from her blog. Instead, they fined her for more than the graphic was actually worth. She got no warning, and in most cases, you won’t either. So, if in doubt, don’t use it. Take your own pictures or use the above suggestions.

Don’t get sued.

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About Nikole Hahn

A new appointee with WorldVenture, a missionary organization, who works at FBC Prescott as a church secretary and has joined the world of cybermissions. You can partner with her in ministry, by giving at worldventure.com/nhahn.

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