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New Year IP Housekeeping Tip: Keep Track of Your Images

Intellectual Property Law Alert Christian G. Stahl

As we start the New Year, we share with you an important intellectual property housekeeping tip that can save your company time and money: Conduct an audit of all the images you use at your company, whether internally or externally, and verify your company has permission to use those images.

Recently, we have noticed a rise in copyright infringement claims from purported stock image organizations. Images that cost $20 - $200 dollars to license can be valued (many times falsely) at 40 to 50 times that in copyright claims. A simple way to combat these allegations and rest easy is to know that your company has rights to use the images it publishes on web sites, in collateral materials, advertising, and other communication channels. To help avoid copyright infringement allegations, we recommend you consider the following:

If you control your own media creation and dissemination:

1. Audit the images in use and confirm that:

a. The company created the image in house and owns the rights; or

b. The company licensed the image and has documentation to prove it.

2. Phase out images to which ownership or licensing cannot be documented.

3. Retake or replace the images phased out with company owned images or properly licensed images.

4. Create and organize a repository/database that links the image with the proper permission and keep it up to date as your images change.

If you outsource your media creation and dissemination:

  1. Review your media vendor’s services agreement and confirm you are indemnified for any claims related to the images the vendor used on your behalf.
  2. Request lists of images used on behalf of your company.
  3. Consider licensing or owning images used, even if implemented by vendor.
  4. If switching vendors, consider implications of losing vendor image license and ensure that new vendor can replace images.

Copyright infringement where the copyright holder has a properly registered Copyright Registration carries significant statutory penalties (as much as $30,000 per infringement; up to $150,000 if willful, and the potential to be tagged with attorneys’ fees). A little time and money on the front end can save a lot on potential settlement payments and defense fees on the back end.

Quarles & Brady Intellectual Property attorneys are always here to help. If you have questions or would like to discuss strategies for copyright claim prevention or defense to fit your specific needs, please feel free to contact Christian Stahl at christian.stahl@quarles.com/(312) 715-5220 or your Quarles & Brady attorney for more information.