Four potential pitfalls to consider when using images in presentations
Pictures make presentations work. But the most interesting and compelling images aren’t generally found in free
clipart galleries. So you comb the Internet, looking for just the right image to convey your message. Click-cut-paste. You
’ve got it!
While you may have “it”, that “it” is more than likely the copyright-protected work of a
photographer or designer. Even for department presentations, sales presentations, training materials, and other internal
business purposes, using images without the proper permission and rights is a serious issue, and may constitute a breach of the
- Free images aren’t necessarily free
There are millions of images out there, free for the Googling. Images are available on: Web portals like Yahoo, MSN, AOL;
image search sites, such as Google Images and PicSearch; photo sharing services, including Flickr and Picasa Web Albums; and
the list goes on.
None of these sources make it easy for you to get permission to use an image for business purposes. It’s far easier
to ignore that little warning: “image may be subject to copyright,” and just go ahead and help yourself.
Even if an image is freely available on the Web, that actually doesn’t mean you can freely use it. Drill down and
take a look at the source of a photo, and you will often find that the image’s owner wants to know who’s
interested in using the image and for what purpose. Many photographers allow you to use their work for non-commercial
purposes, but expect to be compensated if you put that image to commercial use – even if that commercial use is within
the walls of your organization. Other photographers may restrict even non-commercial use without express permission.
- What happens within your company doesn’t always stay within your company
Within seconds of an event or a political gaffe, the news is all over the Web. Presentations aren’t usually quite that
viral, but even presentations intended for a small audience can quickly find wide distribution. For example: an employee
sends an internal presentation to a sales prospect. Or maybe someone “borrows” a few slides for a presentation
they plan to deliver at an upcoming tradeshow. The images used in these presentations—sources long since forgotten
–are now being disseminated inside and outside your corporate walls. Without the proper permission to do this, you can
open up a whole can of copyright worms.
- Sharing isn’t always the right thing to do
Yes, for the most part mom and your kindergarten teacher were right when they told you that it’s nice to share. And in
today’s collaborative workplace, sharing is critical to many of the functions required to stay competitive in the
corporate environment. But most of those enticing images on the Internet are not actually ours to share unless we obtain the
appropriate permission. Thanks to awareness raised by Napster and KAZAA, most of us understand the issues around sharing
music and video. Many people also understand the copyright issues involved with using and distributing published written
materials and software. Yet that same level of awareness doesn’t always exist when it comes to using images.
To include images in presentations and other company communications, organizations need to ensure they have obtained the
rights to copy, distribute and display those images, even if the image is free. Photographers, illustrators and other
rightsholders can and do track—by tagging, watermarking and other technical means—who uses their images. While it
may seem impossible for rightsholders to know if you include unlicensed photos in an internal presentation, once you hit
“send” with that presentation attached, it is out of your control – yet still your responsibility. To
protect you and your organization, be sure to confirm that you have permission to use and share images before you hit
Not all licenses are the same
Chances are, you’ve visited the popular image source Flickr to search for photos. While you can find some great shots
on Flickr, those images are often licensed through a Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.
There are other significant issues to consider when using Flickr images. For example, you have no way of knowing for certain
whether the person who holds the Creative Commons license is the person who actually holds the copyright for that image.
Another major issue with both Flickr and stock image services centers around third party rights, such as model and property
releases. Virgin Mobile of Australia learned this the hard way when it downloaded a picture from Flickr and used it in a
rather unflattering billboard campaign. The parents of the subject of the photo, a then 15-year old girl, sued Virgin Mobile. While the photographer of the photo owned the copyright in the photo and made it available for use under a Creative Commons
license that permitted commercial use, he hadn’t obtained either a parental consent release or a model release before
making the photo available on Flickr.
Stock image services offer some level of commercial usage rights, which is helpful, but terms and conditions can vary
significantly, creating both confusion and higher image prices. The frequency and types of use, formats, audience type and
size are all considered in stock image pricing.
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