|Photo courtesy of MikeBlogs via flickr|
A few weeks or maybe it's months later, you get a notification that the photo you used belongs to someone else and they order you to take it down. You've unknowingly used a photo copyrighted by someone else and they aren't happy about it. If you're lucky, you'll be asked to take it down and that will be the end of it. If you're not so lucky, the owner will sue you and you'll have to go through a court battle and probably pay for using the photo.
Copyright infringement is raging out of control on the Internet these days. It's difficult to tell which photos are copyrighted and which aren't, but that's no excuse in the eyes of the law. In an effort to stop copyright problems, Google announced last week that they will begin punishing sites who blatantly use copyrighted material. What this means is, if you are notified repeatedly to remove copyrighted material from your site, Google will punish you by lowering your rank in their index, or even worse, remove your site from their index altogether.
When looking for images for your posts, use sites like Creative Commons because they specialize in photos that do not contain copyright. Be sure to read the rules for using the photos because the owner may require that you give credit to him when you post the photo. If you don't know if a photo is copyrighted, it's best to pass it over and find one that you're certain is free to use. When it comes to using someone else's work, it's better safe than sorry.