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Bloggers Beware

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Something disturbing happened to us today and hence, a surprise second post.  As you may recall, on our last visit to Atlanta, we had the great pleasure of meeting the fabulous Mary McDonald who so kindly autographed her book for a giveaway on The Buzz.  We were so excited to be able to share The Allure of Style and amazing talent with you in a blog post which included images from Mary’s website.  Little did we know that many of the pictures were licensed by Mary from Getty Images (there’s nothing on her site that would indicate this) and we received a letter in the mail fining us for using a photograph of one of her interiors.

Needless to say, while we were able to negotiate the fine down to $700 from $875, we’re still floored.  Since launching The Buzz over three years ago, we’ve been very careful to attribute and link every image we use to its original source. Please know that this is not enough to protect you from copyright infringement and it’s scary to think that this could happen again…  The only advice Getty could give us was to contact each and every photographer for permission before using an image in a blog post.   What if this image were taken from Pinterest?  Hmm…

Photo via Etsy

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  • Reply The enchanted home July 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Oh boy, that is rather scary! It definitely makes me think about each and every picture I post too…always try to give proper credit yet it sounds like in some cases that is not enough. Feel bad you had to go through this, I cannot believe they are making you pay instead of doing a good faith warning or something! Thanks for the heads up…definitely something to think about.

  • Reply Stacey July 9, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I think fining you is a bit much! A warning would’ve sufficed and it is indeed scary! Sorry it happened…

  • Reply Teresa @ Splendid Sass July 9, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    You may want to hire an attorney.

  • Reply Margaret July 10, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Sorry this happened to you, but thank you for sharing with the rest of us!

  • Reply Jeanne @ Collage of LIfe July 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I think I just fell out of love with Mary McDonald! Sorry to hear about this, particularly as it was in good faith. I can see both sides to this issue…Pinterest has made it so easy as well. I hope that someone comes to their senses and appreciates what you were trying to do.
    Jeanne xx

  • Reply Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita July 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I would be floored too! I wonder on whose authority they fined you? Wouldn’t they have to take you to court to be awarded anything? Not sure on this, but it doesn’t make sense.

  • Reply KATHYSUE July 10, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Wow! The way I read about using a designers work or images was you would have to be making money and/or claiming the work to be yours for using the image. I agree with the other commentors. On whose authority is this complaint being registered? Scary that someone could not see the good spirit in which you were using the image.
    I think I might check this out a bit further.
    Good luck and so sorry this has happened to you,

    PS The fact that she signed the book knowing it was for a giveaway, might just be your loop hole!

  • Reply Donald July 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    —Nothing like turning good press (what you gave Mary McDonald) into bad press (What Mary McDonald) created!

    I’d say BAD PR MOVE for Mary!

    • Reply carolyn July 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Donald – Thanks for your support but just to be clear, we used images from Mary’s website and don’t know if she in fact realizes that Getty owns the rights to the one image in question. Normally, Getty images have a watermark across the front but this one did not so we thought it was ours to show. Mary is not the one at fault here and we’re trying to contest the charges as Getty does allow use of their images for “non-commercial” use.

      C + C

  • Reply Barb @ The Everyday Home July 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    So Getty says you owe them a fine? Um, yea – when the courts say you do is when I would pay it. They have NO right to tell YOU what your “fine” will be. I would tell them if they would like to file charges to go ahead. I very seriously doubt they will do this. And if the image has been removed, I would think the courts would say “no harm, no foul.” I am certainly not an Attorney, but I would seek the advise of one before I paid a single dime. This makes me so mad for you.

  • Reply Liz @ Shorely Chic July 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Oh my goodness!! I can’t believe that happened to you, so sorry 🙁 And holy moly, that fine!! A warning would have been nice, especially since sincerity and kindness is written all over every aspect of your blog and business.

  • Reply Georgica Pond July 10, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    What a bugger – you must have been so shocked and disappointed. It does worry me this whole photo copyright issue with online use and I’m just as guilty as the next person for being completely ignorant about what I can and can’t use. I think we are all so in the dark about it, nobody seems to know what you can use when and we all just merrily go on our way featuring everybody’s photos whenever we like assuming that if we credit them it will be enough. It’s such a grey area, and I don’t know when or who is going to decide what the rules or boundaries are. Pinterest is a particularly area that is going to have to be policed or we will stop using it. Sorry to hear about your fine and thanks for sharing the lesson.

  • Reply Donna with A Designer's Perspective July 11, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Oh my! I will definitely make sure I go above and beyond for credit like you (but I guess it’s just not enough–so scary). Sorry you had to go through that. I’ve been wondering what you do when you use Pinterest because they don’t own the images, and sometimes it’s hard to find the original source. I might have to stop using Pinterest for finding some of the images (sigh).

  • Reply Decor Arts Now July 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Chilled to the bone. Thanks for sharing, and so sorry this happened to you.

  • Reply Decor Arts Now July 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Oh and PS, I have attempted to contact photographers and have NEVER received a response to my emails.
    I wonder how online photo use will shake down.

  • Reply quintessence July 12, 2012 at 8:08 am

    WOW – I am amazed they would do this as well, as opposed to a warning and request for removal and am sorry to hear it. My guess is they have had issues before and you were the straw…I think Barb has a very good point although I can understand how you might want it to just be done with it. I have also never heard of a situation where a designer licenses photos from a source for their site – very unusual!! I know your meticulous nature and am sure you are always careful to check and attribute unlike so many blogs.

  • Reply Barbara@HausDesign July 12, 2012 at 10:25 am

    SO sorry this happened to you guys! So many friends – some of them attorneys – have warned me about this but I keep thinking I’m still ok because I always give credit. Regardless of the outcome (because I’m still hoping it will be changed to $0) it sounds like it has been quite the headache! 🙁

  • Reply Haus and Home July 12, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    I am sorry to hear this has happened. If I was Mary hiring Getty, I would say the real art is my interior design and therefore those images belong to me. She should want her images all over the internet it increases her exposure as well. You should have a donate a $1.00 fund to help. Your blogger followers would help 🙂

  • Reply Julie Khuu July 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Oh no that’s awful! I always thought sourcing an image was enough credit but I’m guessing there’s people out there who really abuse this privilege so someone’s gotta pay the price. Such a hefty fee but I’m glad you were able to share the lesson and pass it on!

    Peace. Love. LOL!

    Haute Khuuture Blog

  • Reply Kate @ Party Resources July 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I almost fell out of my chair. This is terrible and enough to make all us bloggers shut our laptops for good. I am so sorry to hear this….really really poorly handled on their part! xx

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