With two big-name websites (BuzzFeed and Perez Hilton) getting slapped with lawsuits in the past few weeks, in connection with the sheer prevalence of other sites employing less-than-legal practices, we may have a hot new legal trend on our hands: copyright infringement lawsuits being brought against bloggers. Not to name names, but ... to make our point, here's an example. Highly-praised beauty website, Into The Gloss, posts a plethora of photos to its site on a daily basis. Some are taken by ITG photogs, but the majority of its "mood board" and other photos were taken by others (meaning, ITG is the not the copyright holder of these images). Thus, when these images are used, without giving credit to the copyright owner, this is almost definitely copyright infringement.
In case you aren't familiar with the law, for photos taken after March 1, 1989, copyright protection applies automatically to original photos (an easy standard to meet), for the life of the "author" (aka the photographer in most cases) and then for 70 years after his death. This protection gives the copyright owner several exclusive rights, one of which is the right to reproduce the copyrighted work (in this case, the image). This means that its almost impossible that the images on ITG (and other sites posting even somewhat recent photos) are in the public domain - aka no longer protected by copyright law - and thus, free for anyone to use.
It seems especially problematic for sites to post infringing photos, when (like ITG) they boast large readership numbers and earn profits from advertising. ITG, for instance, boasts a readership of 4.5 million monthly page views and an impressive amount of advertising dollars. This is relevant, as it means the images are being used for commercial purposes, and thus, less likely be considered exempt from liability. From the looks of ITG's terms and service agreement, someone over there understands copyright law to an extent, saying: "All materials displayed or performed on the Website, including, but not limited to text, blogs, graphics, articles, photographs, images, illustrations are protected by copyright," and even goes on to allege that even its potentially infringing use of others' photos is protected by way of a compilation. I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way, but we will save that discussion for another day.
The bottom line here: credit the sources of the photos you feature, especially if you are a big blog that boasts massive traffic and that accepts advertising revenue. Because there is another reason we could begin to see more copyright lawsuits in the blogosphere: bloggers are increasingly becoming well-paid individuals, making them attractive candidates to bring lawsuits against. So, ITG, if you're reading this, please know, we are rooting for you, not against you. Credit your photos so you don't end up like Perez.