Have your before & after photos been stolen?

We have a passion for intellectual property at Total Social Solutions, as you may have noticed.

So when we learned that aesthetic medical practices are finding their before and after photos used on other clinics’ websites, we were absolutely outraged.

Beyond the copyright infringement issues and the lack of integrity, the safety of the public is at stake in a situation such as this. We want to help you make sure your photos aren’t stolen by other practitioners who are trying to pass your work off as their own, putting their patients at risk for serious consequences.

That is why we are now offering watermarking services to our clients, free of charge, to help you protect yourself from theft of your before and after images.

If you are a current client, please contact your account manager for details on how to get started on this free watermarking service.

If you’re not currently a client, find out how this watermarking service can be included in your setup or how you can purchase this service from us as a separate à la carte purchase.  Contact us for more information.

Also, find out how we protect all of our clients from being pursued by lawyers representing stock photo websites and photographers by ensuring that we have the proper licensing for all images we use on their social spaces and website articles.

Is Your Social Media Marketing Firm Breaking the Law on Your Facebook Page?

co-authored by Eric Fredericksen, esg., Jake Laban MBA

Some of our clients have been vocal about the watermark that is found on a large majority of  images we use on their social spaces.

It’s not particularly wonderful feedback we’re getting from them either.  They simply do not like the watermark.

Can’t say I blame them.

We’ve been very open about why this watermark is there, and have even published a blog article detailing the reasons why.  You won’t see a lot of social media marketers using their licensed images with watermarks.  In fact, most social media marketers don’t license the images they use on their clients social spaces at all.

They outright steal them from places across the Internet.

 Posting an Image on Your Facebook Page Without Consent of the Photographer is THEFT

 We’ve discussed copyright infringement via social media on our blog before, but it’s a consistent issue, particularly in the very visual field of cosmetic surgery marketing.   Bloggers are actually being sued for using images that they don’t have permission to publish on their websites; Facebook pages are being shut down without warning because copyright holders are reporting the images.  Pinterest users have shut down their own accounts completely for fear of being sued!

When we address these copyright concerns to our clients and others in the field of aesthetic medical marketing via social media, the most common responses we hear are as follows:


“Everyone uses these images online, so it’s acceptable.”


“So many other pages and businesses are doing it, and they haven’t been shut down or sued, so why should I worry?”


“If the copyright holder shows up and complains, I’ll just take it down and apologize.  No harm done.”


In reality, there’s plenty of harm done to your reputation, your business assets, and the online spaces you’ve worked so hard to build up and utilize.

 All of that can be tarnished with a single complaint of copyright infringement.

What’s worse is that you may not even know that your business is doing this, because you’ve put your faith and trust in a “professional” who isn’t properly licensing images for your business.

One such example is SomeEcards, the popular ironic and sarcastic e-cards that are distributed via email and social media.  The problem is that many will upload these images to their Facebook pages, even though it specifically says in their Terms of Service that this is prohibited:

“Someecards User will not use this service to create advertising, promote a product, brand, Web site, social media program, or Facebook fan page. Someecards are for personal use only, and can not be taken off the site. Only the social networking buttons on the site can be used to share the content.”

 “Only the social networking buttons on the site can be used to share content.”  That means you cannot download the image and then reupload to your Facebook photo album.  You have to click the Facebook “share” button, which will share the link to the webpage where the e-card is located.  Otherwise, you are violating the intellectual property (I.P.) rights of the owners of SomeEcards.  Other large originators of visual online content, notable Getty Images, are aggressively defending their I.P. against this exact type of theft by small business owners.  We here at TSS have even had our own I.P. stolen and improperly posted for another company’s commercial benefit; and we too, vigorously defend our I.P.

It would be like Dr. McGillicutty FACS down the street taking your Before & After photos and publishing them on his own Facebook page.  Even if there was a small attribution to you on the image, he/she still stole the image and can be held legally liable for copyright infringement.


Copyright Myths Revealed

Myth:  If you use an image, but source the owner with an image credit and a link, then it’s not copyright infringement.

Fact:  Unless you received permission from the owner of the image, your publication of that image is copyright infringement and is punishable by law.


Myth:  If a copyright holder contacts you about an image requesting its immediate removal, as long as you comply, there are no further legal actions.

Fact:  The copyright holder can still sue you for thousands of dollars even after you comply with removing the image.


Image Licensing by TSS

While we license our images from a specific online stock image website, those images are licensed to us and not our clients.  Because we hold the license, we may publish the images on our clients’ social spaces on their behalf so long as they contain a watermark somewhere on the image.  Furthermore, once the client is no longer a client anymore, they must immediately remove all images licensed to Total Social Solutions, or they could be liable for copyright infringement by the original creator of the image.

This is why we have the watermark on our photos, to protect your business from lawsuits and the removal of your communities from social networks like Facebook and Pinterest.  We’ve worked hard with you and for you to grow these communities so that they are true assets to your business, and we don’t want legal issues to affect those communities or bring potential lawsuits to your doors.

Stealing is Wrong, Even if it is “Socially” Acceptable

“It’s just ‘borrowing’ an image off a simple Google Image search…that’s not an issue!”

“Images of celebrities are everywhere!  There is no reason that I can’t upload a few to draw attention to my Facebook wall.”

“Everyone else is simply copying and pasting images on their social sites…why can’t I?”

While advances in technology are great for making life easier and marketing a company, they also make it easier to blur ethical lines. Social media sites have made it far too easy to use unlicensed images for Internet marketing (especially social media marketing).

What content can I use online...legally?

It’s easy to understand why. Everything on the Internet ‘feels’ free.  Many people believe that if something is published online, it is public domain and can be copied and used by anyone. In reality, it is illegal to use images without permission from the copyright holder; some of the consequences are more serious than the average Internet user realizes.

Babble.com, a popular parenting site enraged parents by using photos of their children in its articles. While the company claims it to be an honest mistake, many parents were not convinced and threatened legal action. The site lost many of their faithful readers due to this indiscretion.

Facebook and Pinterest users should be aware that violating the terms and conditions of these sites may result in their account being shut down without warning. Look at your own social media profiles and assess the potential damage. A lawyer and photographer who runs DDK Portraits did just that; after carefully reading the “fine print” on Pinterest’s website, she decided it was best to take down her own account rather than face a potential lawsuit over copyright infringement.

Sharing images on social media is a great way to spread some laughter, great recipe ideas and market a business. Along with this, we have to remember that the Internet isn’t a virtual prepaid shopping spree for intellectual property. When images are posted online, the uploading users have the full responsibility of making sure they have the right to do so. Users also grant Facebook or Pinterest certain rights for uploaded images, further blurring the lines of intellectual property.

Don’t panic! If a person shares an image seen on Facebook or re-pins something from Pinterest, that person is not actually committing theft. The individual or business entity that originally posted or pinned the image will bear this burden.

The United States Copyright Law is very long, complex, and difficult for average Internet users to fully understand. An overview of the law is given here; however, the best way to avoid copyright infringement is to only upload images you know you have a right to distribute online.

Many do not consider this type of image sharing as copyright infringement or stealing. However, stealing someone’s work or images is the same thing as helping yourself to his car or laptop computer.  Just like material property, intellectual property belongs to its owner. Whether or not your business is concerned with ethics or morality, you should know that stealing in this way can result in costly and embarrassing legal actions taken against you and/or your company.

“Plagiarism Today” shared an article detailing five ways to get sued on Facebook.  Does your personal profile or company page have any content that falls into one of these five categories?

Our team here at TSS has taken the use of photos within our company seriously. While other companies have been lax in acknowledging copyrights, our policy requires proper licensing and assurance that we hold the rights to an image before posting it on behalf of our clients.

While many are tempted to use someone else’s work to enhance their own, we are determined to protect the rights of every rights holder. After all, what good is social media without the basic social etiquette that goes along with not stealing from your neighbor?

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