So you’re marketing your barefoot massage biz but haven’t had time to get your photos taken or videos shot. And, man! It’s so expensive. The internet has some amazing ashiatsu photos and videos–they’re online, so you can just use them, right? Wrong! Today we’re going to talk about what you can legally use and what you can’t.
Can I use a photo I found off the internet?
- Did you ask the photographer for and receive permission? Yes.
- If the photographer asks for photo credit / website link and YOU DO THAT, yes.
- Did you screenshot it and figure you could just tell people where it came from? No.
As a professional photographer, I have offered Ashiatsu photos to our grads in the past, but they had to be used with attribution (meaning they needed to link to my site), and the photos had to be used as I created them.
That matters because I don’t want my name linked to a 1990’s style photo that someone has done selective coloring on (like changing the photo to black and white and painting the toenails purple) or has done something else wacky to it.
Most people who used the images were very grateful and did as I asked. One gave a photo to her web person, who promptly changed it and took my watermark off.
Another gave it to a newspaper who did the exact same thing but managed to add insult to injury by misspelling my name in the photo credit.
As my sister was once told by a non-friendly police officer, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
So let’s make this as simple as possible and we’ll go over several terms that are important:
- Fair Use
- Public Domain
- Creative Commons / CC Zero
- Royalty Free
Copyright: the moment your finger presses down on a camera’s shutter button and captures a photograph, that photo is instantly copyrighted. The person who took the photo is the rightful owner.
This means that it’s illegal to use someone’s photo without their permission. Simply “crediting” the photographer does not count as asking permission!
Fair Use: the use of any copyrighted material done for a limited time for a “transformative” purpose. This would be used in the case of a parody, to comment upon something (as in a review of the artwork), or to criticize it.
As far as photos go, the use of someone’s image doing barefoot massage would not be considered fair use. The possible exception would be if you saw someone doing ashiatsu in a public place and took the photo yourself. Then again, you’d have ownership (see #1).
Public Domain: an image that was never copyrighted or whose copyright expired OR whose owner freely gave it up for public use.
Wait — if images are all copyrighted, how can you find one that wasn’t? It had to be taken before 1989 and have not been copyrighted. Also, photos taken by US government employees are apparently not copyrighted, but good luck finding one that’s of a barefoot massage therapist. 😉
Creative Commons / CC Zero: the owner of the photograph has offered to give the work to the public and has waived all rights worldwide under all copyright law. You can use any photo however you want if the photographer has given away their rights. This can be used as is or can be modified. In some instances, the image may be free to use but you must attribute the photographer in some fashion.
What about Royalty Free? Sounds like the images would be free. Unfortunately, it simply means you don’t pay per time it’s used, but you DO have to pay for the photo. Typically, once you have purchased the use of a photo, you do NOT need to credit the photographer. Realize that others may purchase and use the same photo as well.
You are not doing the photographer or the barefoot therapist any “favors” by using their work without permission. It will not further their careers–only your own.
Our friend Cindy (who did a guest blog post for us recently) discovered that quite a few people had used a cupping photo that she had paid a photographer to take for her. When she contacted the people, one of them had the nerve to tell her that she was “doing Cindy a favor” by using her photo. Um, how? Cindy was not credited, nor was the photographer.
Screenshotting or downloading photos, using without permission is stealing. It’s illegal and unethical.
And if you happen to find a photo you like online and use it without permission despite what we’ve told you here, know that Getty Images is quite famous for suing people who have used their photos without paying.
Even Pinterest says if you post your content on Pinterest, it still belongs to you but they can show it to people and others can re-pin it.
Can I use a video I found on YouTube?
If you did not create it, then no. Just because the person who posted it forgot to disable the “share” button does not mean it’s available for your use.
What’s the solution?
- Hire a photographer and take your own photos/videos.
- Ask for permission to use someone else’s property – and follow their rules.
- Pay to use stock photos
The AMTA’s code of ethics (#5 ) states: that as a massage therapist, we must project a professional image and uphold the highest standards of professionalism.
One way we do that is to make sure we follow the letter of the law as far as what photos and videos we use. When in doubt, don’t, same as when you’re working on a client.