Political Flyer Failure – How NOT to use a Stock Photo in Your Marketing

by | Nov 4, 2016

Local Grand Rapids Special Interest Group Violates Copyright Law with their Political Mailer

Regardless of your political leanings is it too much to ask that our special interest groups follow the same laws we have to follow? My household received a political mailer yesterday that appears to have violated US Copyright laws. How do I know this? The image below is a photo from my phone of the flyer – notice the “shutterstock” watermark on the background image? If this was a licensed stock image the watermark would not be there.

illegal use of stock photography on a political flyerFor the record, you are not allowed to simply download images from Google or from any of the major stock photo libraries on the web and use those images unless you license them. As you can see from the photo here – Friends of Term Limits at 60 Straight Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 has apparently violated US Copyright law and could face expensive legal implications as a result of their ignorance. I’m going to assume, as is likely the case, that this is not a deliberate attempt by a local special interest group to intentionally violate US Copyright law – although as may of us know, intent doesn’t generally matter when it comes to responsibility when it comes to violating the law.

How can you avoid such a mistake with your organization or business? Simple, just spend a few dollars to license the photography you use in your marketing materials. There are a number of quality stock photo libraries online (I use Adobe Stock most frequently at stock.adobe.com) and you are welcome to pick your favorite. Please take a moment though to license the images you use to avoid legal trouble in the future.

Have questions about stock photography? I’m not an attorney although I do work in the marketing industry and I’d be happy to help you understand the basics of stock photography licensing and best practices to avoid legal trouble arising from the improper use of stock photos and images. Feel free to contact me.

Full Disclosure: I am personally in favor of term limits although the purpose of this post is not to argue for or against them, it is to focus on the common mistake many businesses and non-profits make by using unlicensed stock photos.