Images and U.S. Copyright Law

images and copywright law

We live in a visual age where using images in your marketing efforts is essential, but are you using them legally according to U.S. copyright law?

While some might be flattered you chose to use their photo or image, most won’t feel that way. Like all other creative works, U.S. copyright law protects photos and images. Most people won’t take the time to read through copyright law, and many who do look at it may still be a bit confused about exactly what it says.

While this is by no means an authoritative legal analysis, we hope reading this helps you better understand what U.S. copyright law says you can and can’t do with photos and images.

You can find and publish legal images in a number of ways:

  • Take your own photos
  • Use public domain images
  • Properly attribute creative commons works
  • Take advantage of the concept of “Fair Use”
  • Purchase licensed stock photos

Take your own photos

Since they’ll be completely original, your readers won’t be able to see them anywhere else, which isn’t the case with public domain or stock photos.

If the photo you’re using has an identifiable person (that is, you can clearly see who they are) and the image is being used for an explicitly commercial purpose (like a landing page or an advertisement), you may not have the right to use their image unless the subject of the photograph signed a model release. The American Society of Media Photographers has a simple one you can use.

Public Domain

Images in the public domain have been unshackled from copyright law. Nobody owns them. So you can publish them, change them, or do anything you want with them. There are some instances where the creator of an image chooses to release it into the public domain. But the most common sources of public domain images are old images (the copyright has expired) and images produced by the government.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons’ license makes it possible for photographers to release their photos to the public, while still retaining some control over how they’re used. All licenses fall into two broad categories: those that allow the photos to be used for commercial use and those that don’t. How can you tell which image has which license? The restrictions of the Creative Commons license are usually published right alongside the image online.

Finding Images with Google

When doing a Google image search, filter your results to find images you have permission to use. To do this, use an Advanced Search filter called “usage rights” that lets you know when you can use, share, or modify something you find online.

When you do a search click on “Search Tools” and then “Usage rights” that lets you know when you can use, share, or modify something you find online. You’ll see four categories. To find the images that give you the most freedom, click on either “Labeled for reuse” or “Labeled for reuse with modification.”

Google search and copyright law

Labeled for reuse means you can use the image for your commercial purposes “as-is” – no modifications are allowed. To be sure, you should still look at the license. Some images require you to give written credit to the creator.

Labeled for reuse with modification means you can modify the image any way you’d like.

Before reusing content, make sure that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse. For example, the license might require that you give credit to the image creator when you use the image. Google can’t tell if the license label is legitimate and they don’t know if the content is lawfully licensed. If you come across content in Google search results with the wrong usage rights, you can alert them in the Google Search Forum.

In addition to doing a Google search for photos and images, there are a number of free stock photo websites you can look at too.

There’s also something in copyright law called “fair use”. It allows you use images that are protected by copyright under certain circumstances. A good explanation can be read here.

Stock Photos

Stock photos are licensed out to anyone who is willing to pay their licensing fee. Buying a license gives you the right to use the photo only as described in the licensing agreement. The main advantage of stock photo sites is the large number of pictures they offer. Some of the most popular stock photos sites include Shutterstock, iStock, and Adobe Stock.

Copyright law can be intimidating and confusing.  Playing by the rules does make finding images or photos you can use more time consuming. But it’s still less of a hassle than being on the wrong end of a law suit.

Everything’s easy when you know how. Once you find your favorite sources for legally compliant images, you’ll be able to find the perfect photos for your blog posts, website or landing pages more easily.

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Pop-ups – The Pros and Cons

Pros and cons of using pop-ups

Balancing the aesthetics of your website with the desire to create leads is a delicate juggling act. Nothing demonstrates this better than pop-ups.

Let’s define pop-ups

Pop-ups are windows that appear on the screen over other windows or documents when someone visits a page. Sometimes they appear seconds after you arrive on a page (by design). Pop-ups come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some pop-ups aren’t all that bad – you really hardly notice them. Then there are pop-ups that are distracting to the point where they’re downright annoying.

Recent research confirms that pop-ups improve conversion rates and sign-ups. When used appropriately, pop-ups can enhance the user experience on your website and help improve your conversion rate.

Over the past few years, pop-up forms have re-emerged as a popular marketing tactic for promoting content, driving blog subscriptions, growing email lists, and fueling lead generation.

The problem is, as 2017 rolled in Google started penalizing mobile sites for having what they describe as “intrusive” pop-ups. Google defines ‘intrusive’ as, ”anything that obscures the main content, either prior to, during the user accessing it.”

There are “bad” pop-ups…

Google has posted images with examples of pop-ups they don’t like and some they don’t mind as much. Here are the offending types of pop-ups.

Pop-ups Google penalizes

Shown above are pop-ups that Google has issues with:

  • Pop-ups that covers the main content, either immediately when the user navigates to a page, or later while they are reading through the page.
  • Displaying a stand alone interstitial that the user has to dismiss by clicking on an “X” before accessing the content they’re looking for.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page is similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content is dropped below the fold (where you’d need to scroll down to see it).

To summarize, Google is targeting and penalizing overlays that gray out the content beneath them to prevent you from reading a web page, either for a few seconds or until you find and very carefully tap a little X to dismiss them. These would count against you if they load immediately after a page is opened or if they appear after scrolling a certain distance. Google also dislikes ads that create the effect of a pop-up without actually being a pop-up, by taking up most of the page after a site is loaded.

Google has explained that not all pop-ups and interstitials will be penalized. They also have provided examples, which “would not be affected by the new signal, if used responsibly”.

…and some “good” pop-ups

Pop-ups Google doesn't penalize

Shown above are pop-ups Google doesn’t mind much:

  • Interstitials that are being used to fulfill a legal obligation like for cookie usage or age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable. For example, private content such as email or unindexable content that’s behind a paywall.
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible. The app install banners provided by Safari and Chrome are examples of banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Do pop-ups work?

When used appropriately, pop-ups boost email list sign-ups and click-through rates. As much as people complain about them, they tolerate them for the most part.

If you decide to test a pop-up on your own site, test it for a specific amount of time and evaluate your results before making pop-ups a permanent part of your website. The right kind of pop-ups can improve website conversions, but implementing a strategy that annoys visitors can do serious damage to your marketing efforts.

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LinkedIn Tips You Can Use

LinkedIn Tips You Can UseRecently, I took part in an informative work session on using LinkedIn, led by Glen McDermott of Red Rock Branding. Afterward, I realized we haven’t touched on LinkedIn tips on this blog. So, here are some of our favorite LinkedIn tips you can (hopefully) use.

Complete your professional profile

Complete the summary section in a conversational voice that highlights what makes you unique. While writing your LinkedIn profile, think about the keywords people might choose when searching for someone like you. Liberally sprinkle in those straightforward search terms in all sections – especially your headline and summary. In general, filling out all possible information areas will increase your profile’s visibility.

Connect. Connect. Connect

Make an effort to get at least 500 LinkedIn connections. The 500+ connections notation in your profile makes a positive first impression with those who view your profile. Pay no attention to LinkedIn’s advice to only accept connection requests from people you know. The more the merrier. Why not get your name and your brand in front of as many people as possible? LinkedIn’s search algorithm favors those in your network. So, when people are looking for what you offer, their search results are displayed with 1st level connections first, then 2nd level connections and so on.

Join LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups let you share your expertise and engage with potential customers. After a while, share unique and original content from your company blog to prompt engagement and drive prospects to your website. Join groups that are highly active and have a sizable membership. Groups also have other benefits. Did you know that if you’re a member of the same group as another user, you don’t need to be a first-degree connection in order to invite them to join your network? Group members also can view the profiles of all group members

Groups also have other important benefits. Did you know that if you’re a member of the same group as another user, you don’t need to be a first-degree connection in order to invite them to join your network? Group members also can view the profiles of all group members without being connected.

LinkedIn tips recommendations

Get recommendations

Word of mouth is everything. Ask those you’ve worked with and those who have worked for you for recommendations. Get real testimonials, not those vanity endorsements that take just one click.

Make sure you don’t share profile edits

When you’re editing or updating your LinkedIn page, go to your privacy controls and turn off sharing profile updates.

  • Click the “Me” icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage
  • Under ACCOUNT, click “Settings & Privacy”
  • Click on the “Privacy” tab in the center of the top of the page
  • Look for “Sharing Profile Edits” (4th down on the list) and make sure “No” is selected

Then change the setting for “select who can see your activity feed” to “only you.” If you don’t take these two steps whenever you’re updating your LinkedIn profile your contacts will be alerted to every little change, which gets annoying real fast.

Customize your public profile URL

Make your LinkedIn profile easier to share by claiming your custom LinkedIn URL. It looks a lot better and is easier to share than a URL with a bunch of numbers at the end. Step-by-step instructions for customizing your LinkedIn URL are here.

Export your connections

LinkedIn lets you easily export your connections, preferably using a browser other than Internet Explorer. To export your connections:

  • Go to https://www.linkedin.com/people/export-settings
  • From the drop down, select .csv (good for Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) or VCF (Mac OS)
  • Click on the export button
  • Complete the security verification
  • The saved file contains fields for first name, last name and email address

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Playboy Returns to Bare Basics

Playboy returns to branding basics

Playboy, a classic example of a brand that strayed from what made them a household name, has brought nudity back to the magazine.

Playboy covers up

Playboy dropped nude photos with the February 2016 issue at the urging of their sales department and media buyers. The ill-advised goal was to attract more mainstream advertisers and a younger demographic.

Playboy’s circulation had dropped from its peak 5.6 million in the 1970s to below 700,000 before the change. When sales departments or media buyers are allowed to dictate a brand’s direction, it’s often the first step toward oblivion. Not surprisingly, when nudity was removed from the magazine the circulation never did rebound.

“I’ll be the first to admit that the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated, but removing it entirely was a mistake,” said Cooper Hefner, the magazine’s chief creative officer and son of founder Hugh Hefner.

The experts agree. University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni told the Associated Press he thinks Playboy’s ban on nudity probably alienated more readers than it attracted.

What were they thinking?

So what made Playboy think this the way to go?  While they did research the marketplace, Playboy brass reached the wrong conclusion. Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders said, “The political and sexual climate of 1953, the year Hugh Hefner introduced Playboy to the world, bears almost no resemblance to today.”

Cooper Hefner disagreed with company management’s conclusion, telling Business Insider: “When you have a company and the founder is responsible for kick-starting the sexual revolution and then you pluck out that aspect of the company’s DNA by removing the nudity, it makes a lot of people, including me, sit up and say: ‘What the hell is the company doing?’”

BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen explained Playboy in its prime was a “lifestyle bible”. Without nudity, Playboy became, “a caricature of itself.”

Consistent branding is important, but staying true to the true character of a company is key to continued success. When you move too far away from the core elements that define your brand, you’re messing with the primary driver of consumer loyalty and repeat business.

Those who don’t learn from history…

Coca-Cola is a perfect example of a well-established brand that fixed something that wasn’t broke. Coke tasted just fine to the billions around the world who loved it. But after some months of decreasing sales, they decided to veer away from their core formula that made them successful. They created “New Coke,” a monumental disaster of a product that didn’t even three months.

No one ever claimed Coca-Cola didn’t do the market research.  The blame for New Coke belongs entirely to the market research team that conducted over 200,000 taste tests to confirm that subjects preferred New Coke over both Classic Coke and Pepsi.

As Coca-Cola discovered later, taste preference wasn’t the only factor in consumer’s purchasing decisions. Consumers base their purchasing decisions on habit, nostalgia, and loyalty as well. The researchers also neglected to make sure subjects understood that by choosing New Coke, they would be killing off old Coke. If consumers had known this, it could have drastically altered their responses.

Continuing to do what established the brand is key to maintaining its success. But, in a competitive marketplace, you have to find ways to continuously improve and freshen it. Adding new elements helps ensure your customer base doesn’t take it for granted.

In its effort to go more mainstream, that’s the marketing mistake Playboy made. Nudity defined Playboy. Take it away and what’s left of the brand?

“I didn’t agree with the decision, explained Cooper Hefner. “I felt as though millennials and Gen-Y didn’t view nudity as the issue. The issue was the way in which nudity and the girls were portrayed.”

Playboy’s new (old) direction

In an attempt to recapture Playboy’s brand and core audience, Cooper Hefner’s business strategy is aiming to own a very specific space his father created — a cool mix of politics, sex, and anti-establishment attitude.

Whether bringing back nudity will bring former Playboy readers back to the magazine remains to be seen. But, that may not be enough for Playboy to succeed.

“The people who grew up with Playboy magazine are starting to fade away,” Husni said, “so they will have to figure out what the millennial generation wants in the 21st century if they are going to survive.”

The moral of the story is don’t stop doing what got your brand its customer base in the first place. Just keep improving the user experience.

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LinkedIn Pulse for Beginners

 LinkedIn Pulse for Beginners

Over the last few years, LinkedIn Pulse has become one of the top content destinations for B2B marketers. Some experts feel Pulse is among the best sources of authoritative content on the web and a great distribution platform to help with your digital marketing.

LinkedIn Pulse started out as an exclusive platform where a handful of influencers posted content. LinkedIn opened up the Pulse platform a few years ago and now any LinkedIn member can post articles on any subject they wish.

A Content Marketing Institute report says 94% of B2B marketers distribute content regularly on LinkedIn. There are now over 3 million long form posts on LinkedIn with 130,000 long-form posts generated each week.

While LinkedIn Pulse is an effective way to extend the reach of your blog content far beyond your current blog audience, what works best on Pulse can be very different from the best practices for blogs and social media platforms.

Size matters

Let’s take the length of your LinkedIn Pulse posts as an example. In the age of the 8-second attention span, believe it or not, on LinkedIn Pulse longer posts are more effective than the 400-600 word variety.

Research says the most-read/linked/shared blog posts have an optimal length of 1,600 words. Posts receiving the most views, likes, comments, and shares average between 2,000–2,500 words. This doesn’t mean you have to compose a 2,500-word post to publish on LinkedIn Pulse. It just means size does matter and longer posts work better.

Choose the right topics

The methods for optimizing content differ in each platform. The topics you choose to write about on LinkedIn Pulse need a unique a new point-of-view to increase the chance they’ll be shared.

Design matters

If you’re out to grow your following or drive traffic to a landing page or website, your LinkedIn Pulse content has to include compelling images. While the header image is the most important, eye-catching images within the body copy help keep readers engaged and reading further.

Call to Action

What do you add that will make your audience want to engage? On LinkedIn Pulse, your best bet is to use a link and an “ask” to close your article. Providing your credentials in your footer is a standard practice among LinkedIn Influencers. Providing links to personal accounts and other relevant articles help people engaged who want to hear more from you while keeping your brand top-of-mind.

Posting on LinkedIn Pulse

Publishing your content on the LinkedIn Pulse platform instantly shares it with your connections.  Don’t forget to tag your posts with keywords. That makes it more likely a LinkedIn user searching on the site will find your post.

Publishing your article is only step one

To maximize your reach you also must promote it in the right places at the right time. Have a plan for where and with what audience(s) you’re going to share your content. It’s also a good practice to try to gain immediate traction through relevant LinkedIn Groups

Promote LinkedIn Pulse content elsewhere

Plan on sharing and promoting your LinkedIn Pulse content on other social networks. Epictions conducted a study that found 1 out of 4 (24%) of social shares, likes and comments for LinkedIn Pulse content occurred outside LinkedIn. Digging a bit deeper, 1 in 5 shares came from other social networks and nearly half of all the likes and comments received came from outside LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Pulse Social Engagement chart

To republish, or not to republish on LinkedIn Pulse

Can you safely republish an entire blog post on Pulse? According to Yoast’s Guy Andefors, “If you post your own blog post first, make sure that it’s indexed in Google. Then post it on Pulse with a link underneath the posting, ‘This post originally appeared on…’ linking back to your blog post.”

If you still have questions about getting started with LinkedIn Pulse, feel free to contact me.

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