Do you post new content regularly on your website? Do you have reps, dealers, and other sales and marketing people sharing your content, especially when it comes to photos and images? Do they use those images to market your products?
Copyright infringement is a real issue, especially on the web. The following article should provide you with a baseline understanding of the rules so you can create a plan to protect your company and any of your partners.
What Is Copyright Infringement?
According to Wikipedia, "Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works."
Manufacturers produce a lot of their own content and images and publish them on their websites. But in many cases, they also use stock photography sites like Dreamstime, Shuttertock, or Corbis (and these are just the big ones). Stock photos are purchased under a wide range of rights and clearance criteria, and these criteria usually allow for use by the purchaser, not to be reproduced by a partner of that purchaser.
For example, let's say you are a manufacturer's representative and want to promote your factory's brand and solutions. As part of your marketing efforts, you copy an image from your factory's website and publish it on your own blog page. Unless the factory actually owns that image, it can likely not be used by the rep and puts the rep in jeopardy of copyright infringement. In essence, a rep can be held responsible for copyright infringement should the owner of this stock image learn the rep is using it without license.
What does that mean if an infringement is brought to your attention? It's going to cost the rep big bucks if there's no agreement in place to use the image.
What should you do? You should talk about it with your factory, your reps, your marketing agency, and anyone else who would potentially publish content on your company's behalf. Work the right legal language into your agreements. Be sure everyone knows what to do in case copyright infringement ever comes to light. And make sure you consider each image you use to ensure it is being used properly and within the law.