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Marketing Managers are the guardians of any brand: they reinforce the brand’s image without damaging the brand’s value. And they give their all to make sure that a brand never ends up in court. And it’s worth bearing in mind:  it happens more often than you’d think - and could have serious consequences.

 A million-case violation of copyright law

A photographer, who had taken pictures of a Viennese hotel, produced seven photos for the Sofitel hotel chain in Austria. The use of the images was limited to three years and restricted to the country of Austria. The hotel chain’s marketing department didn’t take these restrictions so seriously: hundreds of copies of the image were distributed worldwide after the license had expired - in international fashion magazines and international papers such as the New York Times. The case ended up at court. The parties then agreed on a high six-figure sum. Examples from the USA go to show that copyright infringement can have even more drastic monetary consequences. It’s worth considering how companies can avoid this kind of “accident”.

Number of images increases dramatically

The problem is getting more and more urgent for Marketing Managers: the sheer mass of content that companies provide to their customers is constantly increasing. Websites, image folders, video, social media or newsletters, to name just a few, often involve having to deal with image licenses. Some facts to help you envision the dilemma:

The company PicScout evaluated 150 million websites from the USA and Europe:

  • 70 percent of these commercial websites use images to get their services and ideas across.
  • An average of 130 images was used per website.
  • 20 percent of websites update their images once a year - around 39.
  • Say 78 percent of the images used on these commercial websites are not authorized, and therefore, are in violation of applicable law.

If each illegal image costs 5 dollars, this would result in a hefty 16.9 million dollars in penalties. The potential for lawsuits is enormous.

Anyone managing a larger amount of assets and wanting to avoid lawsuits should consider the following questions:

  • How long can an asset be used commercially?
  • When does the license for the asset expire? And what consequences would there be for the asset’s surroundings if it was no longer visible?
  • In which channels can it be used?
  • Is there a certain context in which the asset is not allowed to be used?

What happens if assets are manually monitored?

Assets may come with certain restrictions. It’s not just about protection from million dollar lawsuits, but also about loss of reputation. Negative press surrounding copyright infringement can cost a company millions, and could therefore destroy a carefully built-up brand.

It also costs money to create assets. Managing licenses between different departments, such as Marketing, Legal and/or an external agency, takes up valuable resources.

And some companies don’t use the full potential of their content. Any company that refrains from using content due to lack of knowledge concerning the licenses is wasting a lot of money.

What can a company do?

3 tips to avoid copyright infringement:

Introducing a ‘Digital Asset Management’ system (DAM) is a good option for managing content and protecting a brand. This software collects all files of the same format and size in one place - a central content hub.

1. This means that Marketing Managers keep a clear overview of all content. Nothing gets lost, or disappears into intricate file structures. This means you can use the full potential of your own content.

2. Secondly, you can use metadata to add rights and licenses to videos, images, PDF files, brochures or articles. This will protect you from lawsuits, providing legal security.

3. As well as the system, you’ll also need a DAM Manager if there are a lot of assets to manage. This manager is a kind of gardener in the company’s digital garden. They ensure the proper structure within the DAM, and keep an overview of all licenses. If an image has to be replaced after its expiration date, the manager can react quickly.