One of the most common mistakes that business owners make involves the use of copyright images. It’s no small secret that a picture is worth a thousand words or more. In the CrossFit and fitness industries, the right images can create instant brand recognition and credibility. However, the process of creating the right designs and images is not so easy. Though there’s no shortage of image libraries, websites, and resources available to copy from, it’s not acceptable to use copyright images without securing the appropriate licensing rights to do so. Federal law classifies images and photos as intellectual property and extends certain protections to the creator, designer, or author. Even so, unauthorized copyright image use is a leading cause of copyright infringement and violations for business owners today.
What Are Copyright Images?
Images are one of several types of artwork or intellectual properties that are protected under federal law. Basic copyright protections apply from the moment of creation for most intellectual properties. Though it’s extremely beneficial to do so, it is not necessary for one to file a legal application establishing ownership/authorship.
Federal copyright law grants the author or creator exclusive permission to publish or distribute their work in any way they see fit, regardless of if it’s published or kept private. That exclusivity extends to allowing other individuals or entities to use their work and setting restrictions on its use. In other words, copyright law allows photo and image creators and designers to sell reproduction and distribution rights for their work and retain complete legal ownership.
Consequences of Using Unauthorized Copyright Images
Does this mean that it is acceptable to use free images or designs offered online via common licensing and alternative sources? No, copyright law still applies. In order to use free or paid photos and images without legal repercussions, the user must obtain permission from the copyright holder, which in most cases is the creator. Using copyright images and intellectual property without proper or legal permission can lead to copyright infringement liabilities.
According to the Purdue University Copyright Office, the penalties for copyright image violations include:
- Hefty legal fees
- Intellectual property forfeiture
- Cease and desist injunction
- Monetary damages
- Fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation
Intellectual property is a critical aspect of any business’s brand, regardless of the industry. Whether it’s music for your members to work out and groove to or images and designs that help promote and distinguish your brand and services from the competition, they are extremely valuable assets that can determine success or hardship for any business. Penalties for violations are dependent on the intellectual property’s copyright registration status.
Harvard Office of General Counsel states in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, also known as Fair Use, copyright images may be used without owner consent in certain situations that pertain to news, teaching, commentary, research, etc. To qualify for fair use, specific criteria must be met.
Avoiding Copyright Image Violations
Copyright law doesn’t mean you can’t use photos and images for inspiration for new creations or ideas. Copyrights merely extend to the original version. As a fitness business owner, you retain the rights to any images, text, and content you create for your gym, as long as they are original and in a tangible form (add source).
Also, owning or managing a CrossFit business doesn’t automatically give you the right to use the CrossFit name or brand exclusively. There are rules that affiliates and CrossFit professionals must follow to avoid infringement violations. The easiest way to avoid copyright infringements is to purchase license rights from image directories/libraries or to contact the owner directly and request their permission. You can always search the copyright registration database online for copyright owner information or to register your intellectual property on the U.S. Copyright Office website.
It’s extremely beneficial for CrossFit and fitness industry professionals to go above and beyond in protecting their intellectual property, which includes images. In order to prevent others from capitalizing on your hard work and creativity, you’ll need to stake a copyright claim by registering your work. Once registered, you can add the copyright symbol to your work to protect it against theft and unauthorized use via the digital millennium copyright act (DMCA) or sue for copyright infringement. The law doesn’t require copyright notices to appear on protected intellectual property online or digitally. But it’s an extra layer of protection for your business and its intellectual property. Competition is fierce and you don’t want anyone to benefit from any image, photo, design, or artwork that you own the intellectual property rights to without your permission.
It’s common practice for business owners to hire contractors, designers, and other third-party professionals to create branded artwork, logos, and other artwork for their business’s websites, blogs, social media profiles, etc. Failure to apply for intellectual property copyrights can lead to unexpected liabilities and issues concerning future use and distribution.
Anyone can copy an image, use it, and claim it as their own. But, in order to do so without legal repercussions, they must be the creator/designer or have a license for use. Consider registering your intellectual property copyright with the United States Copyright Office for extra protection and to enhance your gym’s viability, profitability, longevity, brand, and credibility. Keep in mind that copyright registration does not protect against erroneous violation claims, libel, and other liabilities.
To learn more about copyright images, resources, or coverage options to make owning and running a CrossFit gym a seamless and more rewarding endeavor, contact CrossFit RRG.