Do users understand the risks of the word ‘free’?

SXC’s draw is to it’s large breadth of free images for use in multiple areas, creating website designs, in broadcast film and video; you can also use them in books, magazines, brochures, flyers, CD/DVD covers; etc. However a major restriction applies to profit. As a consumer you are not allowed to, in any way, make a profit from photos through distribution or direct selling of the image. This creates a bit of a grey are as the site (as previously stated) allows for the use of images in magazines and other forms, which more then often are about making profit. Simply reading through the user comments on the site’s official forum thread proves that there is some confusion amongst the user base on this issue.

SXC’s official stance is that you are not allowed to use the images for projects where the object of sale would be the images themselves. For these types of projects written permission from the artists must be granted. Recently a man in Germany was sued for 15,000€ when he used a photo from SXC in a website project. The photo was not the object of sale yet he had not received written permission and the original uploader had since removed it from the site and was now selling on a personal site, claiming that the German man had stolen it from there.  The case was eventually settled when the German man produced a screenshot of the image on SXC.

This seems to be an ongoing risk for users of SXC, who are unaware of the origins of the photos they download. SXC does not monitor at all times what is uploaded and downloaded, which can leave users susceptible to situations like the German man.

Going back to the forum, another user posts:  

“Recently I used one of the images here…a jeans photo. But soon my company recevied a lawyer letter from company A stating that the product in the photo was theirs despite the uploader photoshoped the label. So what I wanna know is if a photograher shoots some product then the copyright of the photo belongs to the photograher but because of the copyrighted product being photograhed so the product company still has a say in the usage of the photo is it???”

Its hard to assign fault in issues like these. SXC has a strict policy against copyright infringement, yet this photo slipped through because the uploader doctored the image to remove identifiable label. Ultimtley it was the unfortunate user who downloaded the image that ends up paying the price.

While such prediciments are tough to avoid, it really is up to SXC to toughen up the monitoring of their site in order to protect users, who are following the rules, from falling into these quandrie; but its also up to users to be aware of the risks associated when using stock photography sites like SXC.




April 20, 2009. Hamish.

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