Do Not Use Photos on Your Radio Station Website Unless You Have the Rights

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Radio stations can pull all of their digital tools together into a single overarching strategy using Content Marketing. At the heart of a Content Marketing strategy is online content housed in a blog or news section of the website. This content is more likely to go viral on social media and generate traffic from search engines if it includes images.

Yet images are one of the most dangerous potential pitfalls for companies publishing posts written by multiple authors. That’s because if one of these authors uses an image that the company does not have permission to use, the company leaves itself open to a lawsuit.

Radio Ink recently reported that Entercom was forced to write a check for an undisclosed amount as a settlement with photographer Jesse Cuervas after their (almost) morning DJ Kevin Kline used one of Cuervas’ photos as part of a controversial social media post. The fact that unauthorized use of photos can lead to unexpected costs shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the radio business. After all, broadcasting attorney David Oxenford has written about the issue in his Broadcast Law Blog here, here, here, here, here, and here — and that’s just in the last few years! Entercom isn’t an isolated case – many companies have been fined these past several years.

The point is, using unauthorized images could impact your radio station’s bottom line. Here are some steps that you can use to avoid this problem:

1. Write and distribute a clear policy regarding images.
Work with your station’s legal team to develop a clear policy. It should address is the difference between images that can be used for editorial purposes and images that can be used for creative or commercial purposes. For example, a photographer may make a photo of Twenty One Pilots available for somebody writing a news story about the band, but that doesn’t mean you can also use the photo to promote your station’s contest giving away tickets to the band’s next show. Your lawyers should help you clarify this distinction.

Of course, it’s not enough to have a policy. Every person on your staff who has the ability to publish online content must also be aware of and understand this policy. Proper communication and training is key. In all likelihood, this is a policy that you will need to reiterate at frequent intervals.

2. Use a stock image provider.
While there are several stock image websites out there that offer photos that can be used for free, these are probably going to be insufficient for most radio stations. These sites are great if you need generic birthday cake doodles, but if you need photos of popular bands or the local football team, you’re going to have to pay for them. Set up an account with a service like Getty Images or Shutterstock. Make sure that everybody who needs access to images can get it easily. When writers don’t know about the account or can’t log in, they’re going to be tempted to do a Copy & Paste job that could cost you thousands of dollars.

3. Make it easy for staff members to get answers.
If somebody on your staff has a question about whether or not they can use an image, make sure they know who to ask. Establish a point person for questions about images. If you have staff members who may have questions after hours, make sure they know how to contact this point person. Make sure that all questions are answered in a timely manner. If you leave your staff guessing, you increase the chances that they’ll use an image without permission.

It’s easy for radio broadcasters to think they can get away with using images when they don’t have permission, but these days, the rights holders are more vigilant than ever. Don’t get caught making this mistake — it could cost your station a lot.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at [email protected] or 1-800-968-7622.

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