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Fighting Legal Nightmares by Leslie Dow

I was scrolling through Facebook last night and stumbled across an article that turned my blood to ice.

You might have noticed since I posted it to the SavvyAuthors Facebook feed. It had been one of those lurking issues in the back of my mind. I mean I **thought** I was doing the right thing when I purchased stock images, but then maybe I had fudged just a bit? You know that feeling? Right.

I use a lot of images here at SavvyAuthors.

A. Lot. Each week we have new images for classes, sometimes I switch images for new promo, and I am always updating the site with fresh images and icons. Just to keep it fun. When I started all this, I must admit I might have been a bit fast and loose, maybe, with some images. I thought I’d always downloaded from reputable sites and usually checked to be sure I had the rights to use the image on the internet. Luckily, in a backward way, I found out the hard way that some of those ‘free’ or very inexpensive images were just malware transport devices. Ugh. So, I moved pretty quickly to more reputable and expensive sites. You usually do get what you pay for, and so, I have happily paid for great images and been happy to do so, finding artists that I love and follow.

I respect intellectual property and would never someone’s work without paying for it.

As an author, that is near and dear to me. I never even considered that any of the images that I use might not be legal for, well, my use. I download & use images only from paid sites, period. That is until I was scrolling through Facebook and read a harrowing account of someone who, like me, thought she had done everything right. Yet, she recently settled a lawsuit for trademark infringement and had paid her hard-earned cash to someone who is essentially a trademark troll.  I suggest you read the article and double check all your images. I spent yesterday making sure that every image on SavvyAuthors is indeed legal (they are) and then scouring my backups to find those few images that were downloaded from ‘free’ sites and making sure those are also legal (they were).

After I had recovered from the attack of fire drill-induced hyperventilation, I did some google searches.

Evidently, this is a pretty well-known scam. These people trademark an image and then post it on otherwise reputable download sites. If you do not have a copy of your license and evidence that you downloaded it legitimately, they try to extort settlement money from you. I honestly don’t know how legal this is, but like all things, it’s better to protect yourself than to have to spend the time and money digging out of some mess. Apparently, documentation of what you loaded, when, and the license as it was at the time you downloaded is essential here.

Legal issues for Authors

This whole incident brought up a host of questions in my mind about all the potential legal issues that we, as authors, stumble over. What about using images off Wikipedia? What about sites like Flickr where some people say you can use the images? What about song lyrics? What about excerpts from other books? Sports teams? Can I use the Dallas Cowboys like Susan Elizabeth Phillips did in her Chicago Stars series? What of the myriad of concepts, words, and images that swirl through the internet can I use in my work?

Hyperventilation returned, and I felt a bit like Scarlett O’Hara “Fiddle-dee-dee, I’ll think about that tomorrow.” (Wait..was that legal??)

I was just thrilled when I realized that we are hosting a real, live law professor here on SavvyAuthors this week:  Legal Issues for Authors with Jacqueline Lipton on April 6 at 8 PM EST.

 Talk about timing! Jacquline Lipton is an author, lawyer, and law professor. I don’t know about you, but I have a full set of questions for her and I cannot wait to hear the answers!

[box type=bio]

Leslie is:

  1. Leslie DowThe site director and owner of where she sits behind the curtain most days turning interweb knobs and twisting network dials.
  2. A complete and total slacker-writer who, if she does not get off her laurels and WRITE, is going to be flayed by the very talented writers who keep SavvyAuthors going.
  3. A rabid hiker who, when not on the trail, pours over the REI catalog, Sierra Trading Post website, and tries to justify buying more gear to shave another 1/2 ounce off her base pack weight.
  4. A medical device consultant who, when not hiking or thinking about hiking, occasionally works helping companies bring exceptionally cool and useful medical devices to market.
  5. An enthusiastic grandmother of the two cutest babies on the planet!!!!

OK, I’m out..time to sort the latest crisis is to afflict SavvyAuthors  


The site director and owner of where she sits behind the curtain most days turning interweb knobs and twisting network dials. A comp...