Email and the Law

Legal aspects of using outsourced images

The right image can turn a run-of-the-mill email marketing campaign into one which exceeds your completion targets and even hopes. The only problem is that you will have to source the images. On the plus side, so will your competitors, and many can’t be bothered.

The internet abounds with pictures. We have never had so much access to images. We are in a visual world. However, images are protected by complex and often vague laws which are all too easy to breach, the consequences of which can be expensive. This article cannot be definitive, but will just point out ways in which you can ensure, as far as possible, you stay the right side of the law.

WizEmail :: Legal aspects of outsourced imagesThe first thing to grasp is that all images have an owner who has rights over them. This includes those that are headed royalty free. You need to ensure you have the permission of the owner to use any images, although this does not always mean money has to pass hands.

Even after paying for an image you almost certainly won’t have full rights to it. The owner can, and normally does, limit what you can use it for. If you choose it for your email marketing campaign, you will normally be restricted from using it in, for instance, a logo. You might be limited to a single use of the image. 

Image libraries are the most effective way of staying the right side of copyright. Restrictions on use will be fully documented; that’s what they do. Don’t just glance through the overview. Read the full documentation and if there’s anything you don’t understand, ask and keep a record of the reply.

Prices vary considerably. There’s no need to opt for Getty Images. These are aimed at journalists and are probably not the type, nor the price, of image you need. 

All libraries have search functions, some more sophisticated than others. If you find one of little use, then choose another library. It is the most important feature.

A downside is that you will not gain exclusive rights to the image. If it inspires you, and is likely to do the same to those on your email marketing list, then it is likely to be attractive to your competitors. Being first carries little cachet as your customers won’t know.

Subscriptions to image libraries reduce costs over time, but even so, it is not the cheapest option. You have probably heard of Creative Commons. These are described as royalty-free but this can be misleading as the rights owner can include a number of restrictions.

Most require that you acknowledge the owner and sometimes also the source. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that all demands are identical. Check carefully.

Whether you want to advertise someone else’s products in your marketing email is up to you. Remember that the endorsements take up valuable space. Equally importantly, you are telling those on your email marketing lists that you are a bit of a cheapskate. 

There are other ways of getting just the right image. We’ll cover that in the future. 




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