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When you develop a website for a client, if you create it from scratch and present them with design options that include photo images, do you make it a point to inform the client on where the images came from and how they can license the images to use on their site assuming they want to keep them?

Are the images you use in web design mock ups typically part of the final website, or is it standard that they server as place holders and the client's know they need to find and purchase any images they want on the site when it goes live?

I ask because I am having a website developed and we picked our design from mock ups the development company created and presented to us. I'm not a design person myself and at that time I did not think about image ownership.

Now we are in the testing stages. Coincidentally I read a getting fined big bucks for using images they don't own on their websites.

When I asked my development company if we have legal rights to the images, they said no, do a Google search if you want to know where the images came from. I could not find the original source that way and asked again and they said we needed to go find and use our own images. (Put the in through the CMS.)

Can any web pros in here tell me if you have a process in place for dealing with images? Do you expect clients to already know they need to find and license images and they are not something you consider it your responsibility to bring up?

closed as primarily opinion-based by John Conde Apr 14 '15 at 23:39

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Emily, The very first thing you should have done is only gather things you have full legal rights to use and/or distribute. So if you wanted a developer to make a website based on a set of images and a template that he modifies, then make sure the terms that were shipped with the template allows you to modify it to use online and make sure the set of images are allowed to be distributed. If there is anything that is violating copyright law, you may have an issue with DMCA and google will NOT index the affected pages. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act – Mike Apr 15 '15 at 0:17
  • @Mike, thanks - will read the article. We did not provide any materials other than words, our logo, and answering questions about our company. I guess I was totally ignorant. I wanted a website so I went to a company, they showed me designs, and I picked the one I liked. If I hadn't stumbled upon articles on image copyright infringement I would have been clueless to date that web developers get images from different sources and they need to be licenses. It seems obvious now but if you're not in some kind of design business I don't if most people would know. – Emily Apr 15 '15 at 1:35
  • @John Conde, I tried to modify the question to be more "what is your procedure" than "what should they have done." – Emily Apr 15 '15 at 1:36
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This is normal for a lousy developer.

No! This is not normal. It is one thing to use place holders as an example, but as the site is presented, the developer must not only be able to discuss the purpose and vision of any image, but be able to license it too. If, for example, I as a developer simply copy an image off the net and put it on your site, that is illegal whether you are aware of it or not. It is a copyright infringement. The developer is liable period.

Any good developer is not just a coder anymore. There is a vision of how to communicate, convert, and develop a user interface that carries a level of expectation of expertise. Someone who is developing a site, short of an explicit spelling out of the levels of responsibility is responsible for all of the work they produce and that you pay for. Presumably, they copied and coded the links for the image on your dime.

If a developer told me to search the net for the origin of a photo they produced and placed on my site, I would be giving them exactly one opportunity to rethink their position. If the position does not change, I would be terminating the meeting and the contract with the explanation that the developer did not reach to the level of professionalism expected. I would not pay on that contract and consider filing a suit for the cost of hiring another developer simply because I could not trust them to complete the work properly. If they cannot handle issues with images in a professional manner, how can I expect them to code in a professional manner? It is a reasonable argument that will win the ordinary man argument in court if necessary.

  • thanks. This is what I am thinking. Unfortunately we have paid 90% already. I didn't even think about the issue of images, it just suddenly occurred to me. I think they had turnover and the people there now don't know where the images came from. Their dismissive attitude and the fact that if I hadn't realized this on my own I could have been legally vulnerable is very disconcerting. – Emily Apr 15 '15 at 1:40
  • There are soooooo many bad developers out there and bad companies who fly by the seat of their pants and only care to pay the minimum wage to get a noob programmer right out of college. When I was a consultant, there were whole companies that would advertise each week looking for the graduate that did not know the market and would gladly work for 1/4 scale. People would hire these companies and all kinds of wild things would happen. As long as the management could snow the customer they would get away with it. This is where the turn-over came from. Perhaps this describes your developer. – closetnoc Apr 15 '15 at 2:06
  • It's very frustrating when you do not know what to ask. You are relying on the developer to tell you what you need to know to some extent. BTW - I searched a couple hours and found my image in iStock the other night so I'm happy about that. I remain horrified they handed me a site containing images that could get me in legal trouble if I didn't realize not to use them. – Emily Apr 18 '15 at 5:35
  • I agree. I got into this very early in the game- wrote some limited router code, protocol stacks, and device drivers for ARPA back in the day. Yes. I am old enough that the Internet was still a DoD project. ;-) There are plenty of hacks out there selling web development but are not professional enough to take care of everything they should. I like getting several proposals and putting the devs through the paces for work. Do not be afraid to be a bit rough/kind when in the hiring process. The good ones will raise to the top and answer all questions properly. – closetnoc Apr 18 '15 at 15:35

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