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Brendan Egan

How To Avoid Insane Online Lawsuits

There are some absolutely insane lawsuits out there in the internet.  I read a few months ago of a small at home business that is being sued for $10 million.  There’s a lot of ways to get yourself in a lot of trouble on the internet, and as a disclaimer before you read this post, we are not attorneys and are not well versed in online law, but we do have common sense which goes a long way on the internet.

Probably the most common lawsuit out there on the internet focuses on images.  So in this post, we’re going to talk about common ways to get sued online, who is responsible, and how to avoid it.

Great Ways To Get Sued

Here’s the top 5 ways to get sued online:

  1. Hire a college student to design your website
  2. Outsource your website design to another country
  3. Hire a freelance web designer
  4. Design your own website using images from Google
  5. Use thumbnails/images from a search engine in your blog posts/social media posts

Images are the number 1 way to get sued online.  There’s stock photo companies out there that sell images for a living–and some of them have become multi-million dollar corporations that are extremely large.  These companies are very serious about protecting their images, and they embed the images with either a hidden watermark or with a hidden code.  This code can be found by their computers when they crawl the internet, and it’s really easy for them to find their images used in improper applications.

Who Is Responsible?

Let’s say you hire your neighbor, a random guy at the supermarket, or an outsourced person from India to design your website.  Or let’s say you personally jump on Google, do a search for some sort of image, find a good picture and place it on your blog.  No scratch that all–let’s make this real simple–it doesn’t matter how an image gets on your website, but if it does and it’s a copyrighted or protected image that you don’t have written permission to be using, you are responsible.  Yep that’s right.  And the problem is, you are the one who is going to have to pay–usually a good amount of money–to get out of the situation.

That’s the main reason you should go with an actual web design firm for any sort of design–not only will good design firms have permission to use all the images they use, but if for some reason they don’t have permission you can at least go after them legally and actually be able to find them since they are a company.

How Much Could It Cost?

Well, here’s a simple example.  We have an SEO client who long before we came into the picture hired a college student to design their website.  The college student went out grabbing random images from the web.  This small business’ website had 2 copyrighted images on their site for about 6 months.  The computer of one of these large image companies found the image and sent a legal notice to the site owner requesting a settlement of $4,200 and threatening a lawsuit if the settlement amount is not paid.

No, it isn’t good enough to just remove the picture, you already broke copyright law and these companies have proof of it logged in their system.  $4,200 was a steep price tag for a small business to pay for a silly mistake over a website that cost them only $500.

How Do I Avoid All This?

It’s so simple.  Just don’t use images that aren’t yours and don’t hire freelancers to do work on your website.  That’s all it takes, it doesn’t require much brain power, but so many people don’t do it and never think of it until it’s too late.  Think of it this way: you hire a college student who charges you $500 for a web design and uses copyrighted images OR you hire The Marketing Masters that would design that same website for $700 but you have the peace of mind knowing you can trust everything is done right and you can actually reach us if you ever have a problem.

Stealing images online is a huge problem and as technology becomes more and more advanced it will be easier and easier for it to be tracked.  Don’t get caught owing thousands of dollars to one of these large companies, just use common sense in your web design and web maintenance.