(We are not a law firm and we do not offer legal advice. But we offer this warning …)
Our research showed that while there are many legitimate stock photo websites, there has also been a proliferation of websites that appear to have created a cottage industry (and new revenue stream) for some law firms – aimed at generating quick copyright infringement settlements from naïve or unsophisticated photo users who unintentionally violate attribution requirements.
The photos on these sites are often policed by online bots to find any potential “offenses”, with bots generating potential targets for those law firms that are sometimes referred to as “copyright trolls” (see a related Law360 article at https://www.law360.com/articles/612235/don-t-underestimate-the-copyright-trolls).
So, to save yourself some time, trouble and money, be very careful when downloading any images from the “free” photo websites … and make sure your team follows all specific attribution and use requirements.
Or, rather than going the “free” image route, you may want to turn to the major stock photo houses and pay a few bucks for licensed use of their images.
BUT, even if you pay to use the photos from some of the better-known stock photo houses, double-check the attribution and use requirements carefully.
For more eye-opening reading on customer complaints, suspicious firms, and other photo copyright horror stories, Google the terms: copyright trolls, extortion letters, shakedown letters.
Make sure to consult an attorney for professional legal advice around this issue.