The Devil is in the Detail
The problem with free websites like Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels etc. is that they have no insurance for users.
Despite the fact that they claim to offer photos that people can use for commercial purposes, this is not really the case, when you start reading their legal terms & conditions:
“Photos on the Service come with a very, very broad copyright license under the Unsplash License. This is why we say that they are “Free to Use.” Note that the Unsplash License does not include the right to use:
A. Trademarks, logos, or brands that appear in Photos.
B. People’s images if they are recognizable in the Photos.
C. Works of art or authorship that appear in Photos.
If you download photos with any of these depicted in them, you may need the permission of the brand owner of the brand or work of authorship or individual depending on how you use the Photo. If you still aren’t sure, you should probably talk to a lawyer.”
The implications, of what you just read, are massive. It basically means that none of the images found on free image websites like Unsplash have ever approved for commercial use!
The problem gets even worse, because none of the people, trademarks, logos or landmarks have approved any of the images being used for such purposes either, but the free websites continue to use their own private license claiming that it’s just like the traditional stock photo platforms – until you start reading their actual terms and conditions.
Some free sites even claim that they are working ‘in the same spirit’ as the international photo license Creative Commons 0.
However, in a Court of Law there is no such thing as 'the same spirit’. Either you have a private license with the necessary copyright clearances, or you don’t.
A private license on a free photo website is NOT the same as CC0. These free websites have created their own private licenses to prevent competitors from using ‘their’ images, and this results in moving the legal problem from the platform to the users - meaning you.
Also, none of the free websites offer their users an insurance of any kind, so the person that ends up getting sued is you and me.
How big is the problem?
3 billion images are shared online every day - 85% of them are stolen!
The free image websites have more downloads than regular & legal alternatives.
We think that they are more safe than Google, but really they're not!
Companies may be downloading the images 'in good faith', but in a court of Law
there is no such thing!
This may very well be the next Napster - just in the photo industry. By the way:
Napster did not win ANY of its court cases!
Where is image theft the biggest problem?
Image theft divided by continents (source: Copytrack)
Image theft at a country level (source: Copytrack)