I’m someone who has always said that there’s nothing wrong with using free themes for your blog because I don’t believe there’s any inherent SEO benefit to using paid themes. Some claim that they’ve seen their income go sky high once they switched, but the overwhelming majority of people don’t make a single dime more than they did using a free theme.
Last week was interesting for many reasons, but one was somewhat troubling.
One of my clients called me up saying she’d received a letter from Getty Images saying she owed them $800 for using one of their images. Since there were only 4 images on her site and two of them were of her and her business, I thought it was kind of a crank.
What it turned out to be was an image that was embedded in the free WordPress theme that I’d put on her site because the colors matched up with her site nicely. Most of the time I use this theme that I can customize, but this one seemed to do the trick.
Anyway, turns out that the image in the header was a copyrighted image. Whether the creator got permission to use it or not I have no idea, but supposedly even if that person had the right to use it, no one else has the right to use it, even though all of us downloaded the themes with the impression that all was right with the world.
In any case I called the guy at Getty, who was relatively nice but clueless. I gave him a website that showed the theme I downloaded, which is one of many. He said I should go after the people I downloaded the theme from; that was six months ago so that’s not happening since I can’t remember. I told him that it’s not everyone else’s fault if they downloaded a free theme, something that probably happens at least tens of thousands of times a day, and he said copyright is copyright.
We said a few other things to each other, which I’m going to leave alone for now, but I told him my client wasn’t paying and I wasn’t paying and if everyone he was now going to try to contact, since this site listed that 570 people had downloaded the image, got lawyers and decided to fight back that the company would find out soon enough that it wasn’t worth going after so many innocent people. That plus if they thought that one image was worth over $450,000 (just from this one site) they were out of their minds.
It does point out the issue of trying to make sure that images you use can be used on your sites or blogs. I usually go to Flickr if I don’t have an image of my own, and yet last week I also was contacted by someone whose image I used on one of my blogs. I gave attribution as I was supposed to, but this guy said I was supposed to link back to their website. I said there wasn’t anything showing that on his page and he said they were limited in space by Flickr. I said I’d followed the terms as listed on Flickr, but I was going to just remove the article because I wasn’t in the mood to link back to their site. And trust me, my site was easily ranked higher than theirs, so irking me did them no good.
What’s your thoughts on all of this? Meanwhile, my Hot Blog Tips Hangout crew explored this very issue, as well as the topic of free vs. paid themes, and here’s the video if you’re interested in checking out a bit of it: