How to Protect Your Website Against Image Copyright Trolls

When developing a website for your online business, you must protect your website from Image Copyright Trolls. You must be mindful of any images or content you download and use on your website. It could open you up to legal problems you never foresaw coming. 

It’s easy enough to fall into legal troubles with a simple Google search for images you need for your website. Most people never even consider the legal repercussions of downloading an image from a site and using it on their website. However, you are committing copyright infringement without proper vetting of the image or content’s use.  So how do you protect your website against Image Copyright Trolls you ask? Read on.

What Does Copyright Mean?

A person who creates something is given a set of rights, called copyright, that allows them to determine how and where their material can be used. These rights are automatic, so the content creator doesn’t need to do anything special to attain them. 

What Does Copyright Infringement Mean?

A person who uses a creative work, not their own, without explicit permission from the content owner is committing copyright infringement. How can an owner permit their content to be used?

  • Develop a license arrangement that allows multiple people to use the image 
  • Give explicit permission to a single person or entity
  •  Upload the work to a public domain site
  • Offer broad rights of use called a creative commons license. 
  •  Allow a person to purchase the creative work for use (such as hiring a graphic artist to create an image for your business or site)

If you fail to do any of the above, you could be hit with a copyright infringement claim for using the image or content without the owner’s permission. 

A Look At Copyright Trolls

Copyright trolls, which can include a single person or business, attain the rights of creative work portfolios for one reason – to threaten people who use images without the owner’s permission with a lawsuit for copyright infringement. 

How do they work?

They conduct an Internet search of any image in the portfolio and make a note of every website that is using it. They collect the basic contact information and send law firm letters supporting their claim to those “offending” websites. The letters give the website owner a settlement offer that allows them to purchase the content’s copyright license. 

According to these letters, just deleting the content from the site will not suffice, and a settlement must be made via a license agreement. This is somewhat accurate, as deleting content does not absolve you from the act of copyright infringement – knowingly or unknowingly. However, the owner can ask that you remove the content with the promise that you will not commit the offense again. 

Copyright trolls won’t tell you this because their goal is to make money from the unauthorized use of protected content. They don’t want to settle unless it involves money.

What Can You Do To Keep Copyright Trolls From Targeting You?

The best way to keep copyright trolls from targeting you is not to download any images or content without getting a license for it. Several websites provide digital images or content with a license. One such premium stock photo website that we personally recommend is Some of them can be purchased for a $1. This minute amount of money is a far better option than spending thousands of dollars to rid yourself of a problematic copyright troll. If you are looking for high quality premium stock photos, we can highly recommend as an excellent option.

However, if you find “free” content to download on the Internet, make sure you read the website’s terms of use. One such site – – has a broad license for use for images on its website. Some sites do provide various creative commons licenses – some broad, others prohibiting the use of images for commercial reasons or demanding users to credit the image artist.

Make sure to save any terms of use or license for images you feel can be used by the general public in case there are legal issues in the future.

We also recommend you check your website images on a monthly basis with, to ensure you don’t have any copyrighted images on your website. crawls your entire website and checks every public image that you have on your website. We will check every image and notify you if a particular image is a potential copyright infringement. You can take actionable action by replacing those images with other images that won’t have any copyright infringement.

How To Effectively Handle A Copyright Troll

Once a copyright troll contacts you, there will be no end until they get their payment from you.

Before you part with any of your money, you can do a few things.

Ask them to verify the claim using the copyright registration information. In most cases, their letters will only suggest the entitlement of the copyright owner to financial restitution, such as punitive damages and lawyer fees. This is only applicable to content submitted, registered and acknowledged by the U.S. Copyright Office. 

For any image you download from a site you believe allows you the use of the image, be sure you bring out the terms of use or visit the site to print the information about downloading and using its images. It could be that the copyright owner posted the image to build their portfolio and professional reputation before the image was transferred to the troll. Should this be the case, you have a license to use that image or content. 

Since a copyright troll’s only goal is to make money, negotiate with them on a dollar amount. They may ask for thousands of dollars, but, in most cases, they’ll take hundreds because they have yet to spend a lot of time going after you. Don’t completely ignore their demands. Yes, they want the settlement via a license arrangement, but they realize they need to fund several lawsuits and a law firm to file the complaint against companies that fail to grasp the severity of the situation. 

When a lawsuit has been filed, the possibility of a low financial settlement is over.

Search engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing – do not determine an image’s use. They do not know if it’s a free-to-use image or if it’s copyrighted. You should always verify what the image use is by visiting the source or using to check the Image copyright information. What are the license rights for you to use the image or content?

Ignorance is no defense against copyright infringement!

When you use an image on your site, you need to ensure three things:

  • You create the image yourself
  • You bought the image or the license for the image 
  • You attained the image via a website with terms of use that granted permission for use

In cases where you are unsure of an image’s legality and would like to use it, talk with a legal professional to find out if it’s possible. If you don’t want to do that, finding another image that clearly defines how you can use it is best.

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