Algonquin, IL asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Illinois

Q: This is in regards to copyrighting an online image.

I own a small pressure washing buisness and I found a before and after picture of a house wash online. The image shows a house on the left side as dirty and then on the right side the same house but it’s clean after a washing. It’s a picture I used for my website and my postcards that I put on peoples doors. The purpose of my use of this image is to show clients what a house wash can look like/ use my buisness. I also wrote information describing the process of a washing next to the image. A year later and I am now unsure/wondering if I can use this image. I can’t find the original owner of this image. However I see many people using this before and after image on their websites, in particularly pressure washers. Because this photo is commonly used and the purpose behind my usage of it is to show the results of a house wash and to get people interested in our services which give the same results as the picture, am I allowed to use it based on the information given? Thank you in advance

1 Lawyer Answer
Kathryn Perales
Kathryn Perales
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Oberlin, OH

A: Based on your story, you don't appear to have explicit permission to use the photo, and may be infringing the photographer's copyright rights. Also based on your story, this photo is widely used and the photographer may not care, or may have intentionally placed the photo in the public domain. You'll have to be the judge of whether you think enough risk exists of being sued for copyright that you want to change out the photo.

It's safe under copyright law to use a photo that you took yourself, so you may want to do that, and stop worrying about it. Best to get permission in writing from the home/building owner before you take/use the photo.

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