Today we've been helping out a new client with some rough news. They were notified that they used a copyrighted image a couple of years ago and Getty now wants over $1,100 in licensing. We were able to track down the original author who uploaded it - a contract content writer. (We identified it using the post revision history in WordPress and the month/date path in it was uploaded to). It appears they found the very common image somewhere online and decided to use it for our client. The client was never aware.
This isn't uncommon... one of our clients did this a few years ago and it cost over $1,000. Just this month, another friend in town got hit with over $5,000 in licensing fees for various images. How? They found great stock photos using Google Image search and then used them within their content. Ouch. Our client is learning the hard way and even though they're touching base with the previous contractor, chances are that our client will have to pay this ridiculous fee. It's their site and their responsibility.
Companies like Getty and iStockphoto have some amazing web crawlers that search sites and match images to those within their stock photo networks. They make a lot of money finding copyright violators throughout the web. For a photo you could have paid a dollar or two for, now you're paying thousands of dollars to avoid getting sued.
One of the reasons we love our sponsors at Depositphotos is that they don't charge a premium and they have flexible plans for purchasing images, vectors, buttons... any kind of graphic you need.
Our project manager has access to an invoice statement with a thumbnail of the graphic, the invoice number, the artist's information, and support information for every single image we purchase from Depositphotos to use for our client's content strategies. None of our clients are at risk for using copyrighted material... are you?