A Tricky Stock Photo Trap: Beware of “Editorial Use”

© Can Stock Photo / Smit

Especially for those of us who are artistically challenged, stock photos are the bomb. I use them in just about every post I publish, to help make my communications pop.

But there’s a trap to beware of, lest those photo bombs backfire on you. I’ll explain more in a moment, but watch out for stock photos marked “editorial use.”

First, congratulations if you’re using stock photography to begin with. That already puts you miles ahead of anyone who assumes that, just because you can download an image from the Internet, you may. By and large, you may not. If you don’t believe me, enter “photo copyright infringement penalties” into your favorite search engine and feast your eyes on the results.

Is a Blogger a Journalist? (No)

One way to avoid infringing on others’ photo rights is to use stock photos. But remember: When you download a stock photo or illustration, you haven’t purchased the image itself. You’ve purchased license to use it under specific terms and conditions.

Most people never bother to read those terms. Most of the time, that may be okay. You probably already know not to re-sell the image as your own, use it in an act of terrorism, or otherwise violate basic “do unto other” principles.

But have you ever noticed that some stock photos are marked “editorial use”?  For example, navigate over to Shutterstock, search on “Warren Buffett,” and open any of the resulting hits. To the right of the image, not very prominently, it says: “Editorial use only.” Hovering over the teensy question mark to the right offers this not-so-clear guidance: “Editorial content, such as news and celebrity images, are not cleared for commercial use. Learn more on our Support Center.”

I encourage you to go ahead and learn more. But I’ll tell you what it boils down to: It means you cannot use the image unless you’re a journalist. And, no, your firm’s blog or e-newsletter, doesn’t count.

So Close, So Far Away

There are two reasons this is frustrating. First, it eliminates almost any stock photos that depict well-known people (such as Buffett, actors, political figures and sports heroes) as well as many identifiable places (like the New York Stock Exchange or the Empire State Building, which are trademarked properties).

In other words, many of the images you’d most love to use are the least available. Worse, many stock photo services that offer editorial use images will let you download it anyway, no problem. But if you then use it as you please, you risk violating the terms you’ve agreed to.

A Lawyer Confirms My Hunch

Personally, I’ve been avoiding editorial use images for years. I’ve seen plenty of others blissfully playing with photographic fire, but after reading the fine print for myself I decided to err on the side of caution. That said, I was never sure I was correct. I never could find a definitive answer out on the Internet, and the legal disclosures were always enigmatic.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Intellectual Property/Trademark Attorney Donna Schmitt of Armstrong Teasdale for her opinion on the subject. Better yet, she generously agreed to let me share her comments with you (emphases are mine):

The Question: Many companies publish monthly informational newsletters that are posted on their websites and/or on their blogs. Is use of stock photos marked for “editorial use” in these forums appropriate, without getting a permission?

Donna’s Answer: “While company newsletters/blogs are informative, they may not fall under the editorial exception for fair use of copyrighted works. Newsletters put out by for-profit companies are usually viewed as a form of advertisement/marketing and not news-reporting. You should secure proper permissions for any photos you use in your newsletter to avoid risks of infringement. Many stock photo providers scan the internet for misuse of their photos and send demand letters to bad actors, seeking monetary compensation for use.”

By the way, this same advice likely applies to those of you who hail from abroad. I asked Donna about that too, and she explained: “Many countries have signed onto the Berne Convention treaty, which recognizes copyrights across borders and gives reciprocal rights to copyright owners from one country to another.”

So there you have it. In many respects, I would have loved to have been proven wrong so I could start decorating my posts with images of my favorite hot celebrities. (Photos of people also raise rights of privacy and publicity issues, by the way.) Instead, I now know I’ve been right to be cautious. I recommend the same to you.

A Rapid Roundup of Evidence-Based Advisor Networks

© Can Stock Photo / nameinfame

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Hey, sometimes this marketing stuff works. Between a few targeted initiatives and the “pay it forward” power wrought by word of mouth, I’m happy to report that my e-newsletter mailing list has grown nicely since I launched my independent business in January 2009. And the pace seems to be picking up. Checking my MailChimp stats today, I’ve welcomed about 250 of you to my mailing list this year; with a grand total of just over 800 subscribers to date.

Better yet, most of you are precisely the community I’m best set to serve: fee-only, independent investment advisors who are spreading evidence-based investing around the globe.

So, welcome, one and all! Are there times you feel a little alone in your evidence-based investing efforts? I thought it might be helpful to offer a rapid round-up of some networking opportunities deliberately dedicated to helping you and yours collaborate on this very subject. I’ve mentioned all of them in past posts, but time and attention spans fly by, so here’s a handy review: Continue reading “A Rapid Roundup of Evidence-Based Advisor Networks”

The Long and Short of Advisor Videos

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

A question I often hear from advisors: How long should my videos be?

So, first, if you’ve got any prancing baby goats handy (and you’re frittering away your time on Facebook), I’d say the sky’s the limit.

But let’s say you have to resort to actual information. Then what? Opinions vary. A lot.

Continue reading “The Long and Short of Advisor Videos”

Breaking News: Your Blogging Life Just Got Easier

You know it’s good for you and your community: blogging. Especially if it’s good stuff, accessible and informative, without sucking away too much of your client-service face time.

What would you say to a new service to help you achieve just that? Consider it done!

It all started when husband/wife team Jud and Kim Mackrill of Mineral reached out to me recently with an intriguing idea. Here’s the overview: Continue reading “Breaking News: Your Blogging Life Just Got Easier”

The LinkedIn Company You Keep — or Lose

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Have you established a LinkedIn profile? If not, for crying out loud, get ’er done (although that’s the subject for another Wednesday Whimsy). If you do have one, that’s fantastic, but I’ve stumbled across something worth double checking, to ensure that your LinkedIn profile isn’t inadvertently steering visitors to the wrong address.

Every so often, when I click on an advisor’s company name, and then click on the website address on the resulting page, I end up being taken to a site that may bear the firm’s name but be a different – wrong – address. You probably don’t need a Communications professional like me to tell you why that’s unfortunate, especially if that firm happens to be a similarly named competitor of yours. I’ve seen that happen.

So here’s how to double check your address in a few, easy clicks, using screen grabs from my own profile so you can follow along (and feel free to connect with me while you’re at it). To paraphrase Dr. Emmett Brown from “Back to the Future” (one of my faves), “Please excuse the crudity of these models. I didn’t have time to build them to scale or paint them.”

Step 1: From your LinkedIn home page, select Profile > Edit Profile Continue reading “The LinkedIn Company You Keep — or Lose”

Is It Okay To Cuss in Your Client Communications?

This week’s whimsy is inspired by a recent thread in the Evidence-Based Advisors LinkedIn group about John Oliver’s outrageously entertaining attack on many retirement plans’ high fees and opaque arrangements. It’s watchable, worthwhile, and free to share as a link or an embed … You’d think we’d be taking this piece viral faster than you can say “teacup pig.” (If you’re not catching the reference, watch the video.)

But there’s a catch. The language is so salty, the video could serve double duty as a cow lick. It makes McDonald’s fries seem like health food. You get my drift. While most agreed that the piece is “stunningly good” (said one commentator), “the language is just a bit too much” to share (said another). See for yourself, if you’ve not yet.

Should you or shouldn’t you use cuss words in your communications?

Some of the advisers with whom I work regularly pepper their pieces with their own special blend of the famed words from George Carlin’s, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” Oliver’s popularity puts all of ours to shame, and those seven-plus words aren’t slowing him down. Like us, our clients are adults; if we like the video, why wouldn’t they? And what’s Oliver got that we haven’t?

Continue reading “Is It Okay To Cuss in Your Client Communications?”

Tech Friends Indeed for My Advisor Friends’ Needs

www-web_optimizedWhile writing, editing and otherwise putting together solid sentences is a timeless talent, effectively delivering your messages to the audiences you have in mind requires some serious tech power these days. As I focus on helping investment advisors with what they have to say to the world, I receive plenty of queries about how they can best spread the good word.

“Do you know someone who can help us with …”

  1. Building (or updating) our website?
  2. Sustaining our social media and related activities?

Here are a couple of resources I’ve found helpful: Twenty Over Ten and Mineral Interactive.

Continue reading “Tech Friends Indeed for My Advisor Friends’ Needs”

A 2016 Call to Action for the Evidence-Based Advisors Group

Evidence-Based AdvisorsCalling All Evidence-Based Advisors!

If you’ve not yet heard about it, a small team of us has been maintaining an Evidence-Based Advisors (EBA) LinkedIn group since 2008. What began as a modest adventure has grown to a list of 1,500+ members, with new join requests coming in weekly.

The majority of members are evidence-based advisors, just as the name implies. There also are a scattering of service providers like yours truly; fund manager representatives from firms such as Dimensional, AQR and Bridgeway; and some academics who have expressed interest in participating in meaningful conversations (versus using the forum as a promotional venue). Advisors from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of other countries are represented in the group. Just this morning, we accepted a join request from an advisor based in Santiago, Chile. Bienvenida!

Continue reading “A 2016 Call to Action for the Evidence-Based Advisors Group”

Garbage In, Food for Thought Out

flowers
© Can Stock Photo Inc.

In a monumental “Do as I say, not as I do,” I confess: I’ve been an underwhelming blog mentor lately. In one-on-one conversations, I regularly remind advisers how important it is to maintain a blog and spread the word about it through social media. In all kinds of big ways, this helps build relationships between you and your would-be and existing clients and alliances.

But I’ve been remiss lately in following my own advice. Maybe that’s a good thing. It shows that even I, a professional writer, could use a professional writer to help me translate my best intentions into communication action. Continue reading “Garbage In, Food for Thought Out”

Party On, Evidence-Based Advisors: 2015 Communication Resources: Part(y) One

owlIt used to be, if the evidence-based advisor community threw a party for all of the specialized providers assisting them with their corporate communications, the chip dip would form a surface crust long before it needed to be replenished. Fortunately, if one keeps on partying, the world eventually joins in.

Here is a partial list of some communication support services and resources available to evidence-based advisors these days. The list is by no means exhaustive. Some are silvery new, while others are old, golden friends. Either way, chances are you’ll discover at least one new possibility worth exploring.

Which resources do you depend on? Navigate over to where this piece is posted on LinkedIn, and you can add your favorite resources there in the comments area. Let’s keep the party growing. Continue reading “Party On, Evidence-Based Advisors: 2015 Communication Resources: Part(y) One”