If you give attribution when using someone else’s copyrighted content at work, can you avoid copyright infringement? Wells Fargo Sr. Company Counsel – IP Carrie Hefte says “no”. Hear Carrie explain what happens when an employee uses online images in a presentation without the photographer’s permission.
Hi, I’m Carrie Hefte and I work at WellsFargo. I’ve been here a long time as one of the intellectual property attorneys, and so I’ve heard every crazy idea that an employee might have about copyright law. And here’s one of them: If I give attribution, in other words write down the copyright owner’s name, then I can use that copyright owner’s photograph, article, chart or graph, and not get into copyright infringement trouble. That’s not true, of course, and one of our employees found that out the hard way.
So, one of our employees, years ago, was going to be giving a public-facing seminar. She needed a couple of photographs to put into her PowerPoint presentation, so she went out on the Internet, grabbed two photos, and then put the photographer’s name under those two photos, thinking that would get her out of copyright infringement trouble. That doesn’t get you out of copyright infringement trouble, and, of course, someone in the audience ratted on her. Yes, believe it or not, someone in the audience ratted on her and contacted the photographer and said, “Hey, did you know this woman at WellsFargo is using your photographs?” The photographer didn’t know that, and the next thing I saw was a cease and desist letter. So, we of course negotiated a settlement and paid the photographer.
You may think that copyright owners don’t come after people who are infringing on their copyrights, but that’s very few of those instances go to a lawsuit. They settle, just like the situation I explained. So, you need to keep yourself out of trouble by not thinking that giving the copyright owner attribution will keep you out of copyright infringement trouble. Thank you.