The existing copyright laws are as applied to the Internet are a timebomb just waiting to go off. This is an article you must read unless you are already well acquainted with the subject of copyright in use of images on the Internet.
Have you received a letter from any of the popular stock photography sites claiming you have wrongful use any of their images? If you have don't ignore it. Irrespective of your own intentions or knowledge you could very well be in breach of copyright laws quite innocently.
In need of firstly understand that unless you own the images you use you must have permission of the owner to use them. The Internet is full of images and many people believe they are free to use. Quite simply, they're not. Now this gives more of a problem in that certain sites, such as Flickr, will feature images available under a creative Commons license which essentially says they are free to use it you acknowledge the ownership.
Now you’re covered right? Not necessarily. You see you have to trust the word of the person who placed those images up under a creative Commons license to be true and honest. Herein lies the sting. If those images are in fact in breach of copyright, your own use of those images leads you liable if you place them in your own website.
The stock photography companies are on a blitz chasing up such breaches are not limiting themselves to just big companies so don't believe that your small website is going to escape the eye to stop phone companies.
If you want to know how easy it is to find all occurrences of your images across the Internet, go to Google images and click on the camera icon at the end of the search field. Enter the URL of your image and see who else is using or selling that same (or close to same) image.
This not only has serious implications for owners of websites that also Web developers and graphic designers. The safest course of action is to ensure you have purchased, or your Web developer/graphic designer has purchased, all images only from a stock photo website. Sadly, the copyright laws have not kept abreast of technology and do not protect the innocent.
Our own fear is that that with more stock photo companies pursuing copyright breaches, we are going to see instances of bogus claims to pay penalties. This will be the next scam campaign (if not already in play) to affront our mailboxes.