Using Free Image Platforms Like Unsplash Can Cost You Lots of Money

August 11, 2022

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Why use JumpStory?

- Save time:
  We've curated the best   images for you.

- Save money:

  Unlimited use from $23   per month.

As human beings, we love FREE stuff. That’s why a marketing strategy like sampling works very well. It’s also the reason why many people use free image platforms like Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels to download their marketing photos.

However, free can come with a huge cost. Especially when we’re talking photos on the internet.
It didn’t use to be a big problem before, but the recent advances in AI technology and tracking have caused an explosion in the number of copyright infringement cases and letters sent out. So, it’s time to protect yourself better.

As a freelancer, business owner, marketer, agency or graphic designer etc. you have to be aware of three things, when you use images for your digital marketing and campaigns:

Don’t use free photos of people

Photos on Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay don’t have model releases. This means that the people in their photos have not approved to be used for commercial purposes. It says on their websites that the photos can be used for commercial purposes, but this only means the copyright of the image itself. It doesn’t include the people on the photos and the required model release.
When you download a photo from Unsplash and use it on your blog, website, newsletter, landing page etc., you’re therefore risking getting sued or receiving an infringement letter costing you thousands of dollars.

To make sure that you don’t get sued or receive an infringement e-mail, simply use some of the platforms out there that either offers the correct model releases (e.g. Shutterstock) or provide you with global insurance on all images (e.g. JumpStory).

aerial photography of people on open area

Don’t use photos of famous places, landmarks,or brands from free image websites

Images on Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay may feature famous places, landmarks, or brands. This could be the logo of Apple; a photo of The Little Mermaid or similar. In all of these cases you’re not allowed to use the image for commercial purposes, but when you download photos from the free image websites, they don’t solve this problem for you. So the only person to pay the penalty is you.

If you want to make sure that you don’t get sued or receive an infringement e-mail, simply use some of the platforms out there that either have the correct property releases (e.g. Getty Images) or offer you global insurance on all images (e.g. JumpStory).

close view of busy city

Choose a stock photo website that offers you insurance

None of these free image websites offer you any kind of insurance. This means that if you receive a copyright infringement letter after having used one of their photos, no one will help you.

In recent months, the number of copyright infringement cases has exploded.

landscape photography of smoke

The explosion has been caused by two things:

a) Technological improvements that easily allow us to track the use of illegal images, so where this wasn’t a problem just a few years back, it’s becoming more and more common now.

b) An increased usage of free images for marketing and commercial purposes.

To reduce your risk of having to pay a fine, and we’re often talking thousands of US dollars per copyright infringement, simply use some of the platforms out there that either have the correct model releases (e.g. Dreamstime) or offer you global insurance on all images (e.g. JumpStory).

In addition to the insurance these platforms often offer you a bitter and better image library; additional AI tools like background removal and much more.

several portraits on top of white textile

How big of a problem is this?

Last year Copytrack estimated that 85% of all images on the internet are stolen. They also reported a massive increase in the number of copyright infringement letters.

Companies like Copyright Agent have made a very lucrative living out of helping photographers and stock photo companies track the illegal usage of their photos and send out automated copyright infringement letters.

Oftentimes the cost of using just one image, where you don’t have the proper copyright, license, or model release can be thousands of dollars. This means that the money you think you saved, actually ends up being a huge expense instead.

Of course, we suggest that you use JumpStory to eliminate this risk, but we admit that we are very biased, so here are links to five other stock photo platforms that also help you out with not getting sued, when you use stock photos for your landing pages, pitch decks, presentations, websites, etc.:

2. POND5
5. 123RF

If you want to try out Jumpstory for free for 7 days, simply click here to sign up

About the author

Jonathan Løw is the co-founder of JumpStory

He is one of Denmark’s most well-known entrepreneurs and business authors. He has been nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year and is amongst Denmark’s 100 most promising leaders according to a major Danish business newspaper.

In addition to being a serial entrepreneur, Jonathan Løw is the former Head of Marketing at the KaosPilots – named Top 10 most innovative business schools in the world by FastCompany. He is also former Startup-Advisor and Investor at Accelerace – the leading investment fund for startups in Denmark.

Jonathan Løw

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