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Bloggers, beware of using web images in your blog: tips

Website owners and bloggers all have one thing in common: everyone uses images on their sites. Be sure what you’re doing is legal – here is one of many ways to try to safeguard yourself.

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creative commons

creative commons

Changes in using blog images

We recently wrote about a new stunt being pulled by photographers wherein images are being posted on photo sharing sites like Flickr.com with full creative commons licensing indicating that anyone can use them for free for commercial use or changed for use and then changing the permissions to all rights reserved.

Then, this small but growing group emails unsuspecting bloggers and informs the blogger they are in violation and are not within their rights to use the images. Sometimes threats of lawsuits are attached, other times there are heated emails with pointed questions and sometimes simple requests to remove the image. Sometimes it takes days, other times years, but when permissions change, bloggers can be confused when they get notifications.

How we at AGBeat are combating this problem

Because there is little precedent set in this matter, we have taken all precautions possible here at AG and created our own system that we wanted to share with you in an effort to help you safeguard your own website and play fair in a world of creative commons.

First, we only search for images in Flickr’s advanced search and only search within creative commons for commercial use and for attribution. This is the most extreme way to protect yourself and the images that result could technically even be used in your print marketing mailers (meaning no link, no credit, no royalties, no charge).

Here are all the boxes we select:

Click to enlarge.

Secondly, in the WordPress back end, we type in the description the following and we do it there because it doesn’t show up in your article and is not seen by your readers:
Click to enlarge.

The above was written for this article using this Flickr image (so you can see how it looks live).

The description has several parts:

  1. “CC licensed image” which indicates the image being used was searched using only a Creative Commons filter (the first box selected in the advanced Flickr search).
  2. “for commercial use” is the second box selected meaning you have used the filter that allows you to use the image in advertising.
  3. “and adaptation” is the third box selected that means you’re allowed to edit the image (which we almost always do).
  4. “via Flickr.com” notes where we searched for the image because there are multiple places to achieve this.
  5. “as of 05.19.11” is the MOST important note we make. It notes when the search was performed so that if any photographer that claims they have “all rights reserved” on their images, you have consistent notes of when you searched in case they changed it to threaten you. If you do this for all images, you can show any judge your pattern of playing it safe.
  6. “(LR)” are my initials because several of us do image searches and edits and this is a signature of who performed the search which is good if you have multiple team members writing.

There is no fool proof way because this is a new problem, but keeping a paper trail is the best way to avoid the headache of the threatening emails. Above all, remember to be fair to photographers and don’t steal their work, only use images that are legal and free.

The above is an opinion, not legal advice.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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68 Comments

68 Comments

  1. Vinit

    May 21, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Pictures of the object, owned by advertiser must be protected. Spam use of images must be discouraged. If an image is allowed to be uploaded on one single server and only one image 'URL' is allowed to be used that is its address, it would be difficult for people to make its double use or spam use.
    Legally and simple only one upload per image and multi-use of the address of the image that is 'image URL' is what I think should be allowed. – Vinit

  2. Tina merritt

    May 21, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Great tips lani! I also take a screenshot of the image source to protect myself.

  3. Jay -- Arlington

    May 21, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Thanks so much for the information and tips…. will try this weekend.

  4. Coleen DeGroff

    May 21, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Lani – great article! I get my images from iclipart.com so I haven't run into this – or have you heard of this happening with iclipart photos as well?

  5. Susan Milner

    May 21, 2011 at 8:21 am

    OT but I'm still amazed by how many think just because they find something on 'google search' that they can use it. People are either clueless or just don't care. I find my photos on other sites all of the time 🙁

  6. Benn Rosales

    May 21, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The reason it is better to take the second to document within the description is when the image is found again in Google from your site, the license data will populate with the image should someone else choose to use it. The problem often stems after it's been used the first time, and then 'reused' by someone who doesn't know any better.

  7. Jason Fox

    May 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I am consistently impressed with the relevance of your posts. I like this one. As a Social Media Marketing Manager I have long been in need of images, a great image is priceless. I started using istockphoto.com but this gets pricy fast. There are a couple similar services that offer a small selection of lower quality images free, dreamtime.com. I have felt like Flick'r is to good to be true, that if an images started to become "poplular" the artist would want compensation. But you present a great tip for keeping yourself safe.

  8. Ben Fisher

    May 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    This is great information thank you! I was actually wondering this same thing about the photo you used the other day.

  9. Jeremy Blanton

    May 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Good Stuff Lani,

    One of the things we are doing on a project I am currently working on is that at the bottom of the post we put a link directly to the image we were using. We also add with it whether it is CC 2.0 or 3.0. Like you, I've told my bloggers to check all the boxes & only search those types of images.

    Unfortunately, the only foolproof ways is to either purchase images, or take them yourself though 🙁

    • Lani Rosales

      May 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

      Of course linking is necessary- we link all images directly to the Flickr URL. 🙂

  10. Randy Pereira

    May 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

    This is an excellent post! Learn something new everyday… thank you.

  11. Missy Caulk

    May 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Great suggestions Lani, what I have been doing, which I guess is old school is once a take a photo, I send myself the link and save it, in case I am ever questioned. Of course you told me how to search a long time ago, but this takes it one step further for WP

  12. Andrew Mooers

    May 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Point, shoot and capture lots of local images from around the state, community in all four seasons. Get a pro flickr account and stock the shelves with your own imagery!

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Coaching

Disputing a property’s value in a short sale: turn a no into a go

During a short sale, there may be various obstacles, with misaligned property values ranking near the top, but it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker!

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magic eight ball

It’s about getting your way

Were you on the debate team in high school? Were you really effective at convincing your parent or guardian to let you do things that you shouldn’t have been doing? How are your objection-handling skills? Can you flip a no into a go?

When working on short sales, there is one aspect of the process that may require those excellent negotiation or debate skills: disputing the property value. In a short sale, the short sale lender sends an appraiser or broker to the property and this individual conducts a Broker Price Opinion or an appraisal, using special forms provided by the short sale lender.

After this individual completes the Broker Price Opinion or the appraisal, he or she will return it to the short sale lender. Shortly thereafter, the short sale lender will be ready to talk about the purchase price. Will the lender accept the offer on the table or is the lender looking for more? If the lender is seeking an offer for a lot more than the one on the table, mentally prepare for the fact that you will need to conduct a value dispute.

Value Dispute Process

While each of the different short sale lenders (including Fannie Mae) has their own policies and procedures for value dispute, all these procedures have some things in common. Follow the steps below in order to conduct an effective value dispute.

  1. Inquire about forms. Ask your short sale lender if there are specific forms that you need to complete in order to conduct a value dispute. Obtain those forms if necessary.
  2. Gather information. Your goal is to convince the lender to accept the buyer’s offer, so you need to demonstrate that your offer is in line with the value of the property. Collect data that proves this point, such as reports from the MLS, Trulia, Zillow, or your local title company.
  3. Take photos. If there are parts of the property that are substandard and possibly were not revealed to the lender by the individual conducting the BPO, take photos of those items. Perhaps the kitchen has no flooring, or there is a 40-year old roof. Take photos to demonstrate these defects.
  4. Obtain bids. For any defects on the property, obtain a minimum of two bids from licensed contractors. For example, obtain two bids from roofers or structural engineers if necessary
  5. Write a report. Think back to high school English class if necessary. Write a short essay that references your information, photos, and bids, and explains how these items support your buyer’s value. This is not something that you whip up in five minutes. Spend time preparing a compelling appeal.

It is entirely possible that some lenders will not be particularly open-minded when it comes to valuation dispute. However, more times than not, an effective value dispute leads to short sale approval.

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Coaching

Short sale standoffs: how to avoid getting hit

The short sale process can feel a lot like a wild west standoff, but there are ways to come out victorious, so let’s talk about those methods:

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short sales standoff

What is a short sale standoff?

If you are a short sale listing agent, a short sale processor, or a short sale negotiator then you probably already know about the short sale standoff. That’s when you are processing a short sale with more than one lien holder and neither will agree to the terms offered by the other. Or… better yet, each one will not move any further in the short sale process until they see the short sale approval letter from the other lien holder.

Scenario #1 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they will proceed with the short sale, and they will offer Bank 2 a certain amount to release their lien. You call Bank 2 and tell them the good news. Unfortunately, the folks at Bank 2 want more money. If Bank 1 and Bank 2 do not agree, then you are in a standoff.

Scenario #2 – You are processing a short sale with two different mortgage-servicing companies. Bank 1 employees tell you that they cannot generate your approval letter until you present them with the approval letter from Bank 2. Bank 2 employees tell you the exact same thing. Clearly, in this situation, you are in a standoff.

How to Avoid the Standoff

If you are in the middle of a standoff, then you are likely very frustrated. You’ve gotten pretty far in the short sale process and you are likely receiving lots of pressure from all of the parties to the transaction. And, the lenders are not helping much by creating the standoff.

Here are some ideas for how to get out of the situation:

  • Go back to the first lien holder and ask them if they are willing to give the second lien holder more money.
  • Go to the second lien holder and tell them that the first lien holder has insisted on a maximum amount and see if they will budge.
  • If no one will budge, find out why. Is this a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan? If so, they have a maximum that they allow the second. And, if you alert the second of that information, they may become more compliant.
  • Worst case: someone will have to pay the difference. Depending on the laws in your state, it could be the buyer, the seller, or the agents (yuck). No matter what, make sure that this contribution is disclosed to all parties and appears on the short sale settlement statement at closing.
  • In Scenario #2, someone’s got to give in. Try explaining to both sides where you are and see if one will agree to generate their approval letter. If not, follow the tips provided in this Agent Genius article and take your complaint to the streets.

One thing about short sales is that the problems that arise can be difficult to resolve merely because of the number of parties involved—and all from remote locations. Imagine how much easier this would be if all parties sat at the same table and broke bread? If we all sat at the same table, then we wouldn’t need armor in order to avoid the flying bullets from the short sale standoff.

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Coaching

Short sale approval letters don’t arrive in the blink of an eye

Short sale approval letters may look like they’ve been obtained simply by experts, but it takes time and doesn’t just happen with luck.

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short sale approval

Short sale approval: getting prepared, making it happen

People always ask me how it is that I obtain short sale approval letters with such ease. The truth is, that while I have more short sale processing and negotiating experience than most agents and brokers, I don’t just blink my eyes like Jeannie and make those short sale approval letters appear. I often sweat it, just like everyone else.

Despite the fact that I do not have magical powers, I do have something else on my side—education. One of the most important things than can lead to short sale success for any and all agents is education.

Experience dictates that agents that learn about the short sale process
have increased short sale closings.

Short sale education opportunities abound

There are many ways to become educated about the short sale process and make getting short sale approval letters look easy to obtain. These include:

  • Classes at your local board of Realtors®
  • Free short sale webinars and workshops
  • The short sale or foreclosure specialist designations

As the distressed property arena grows and changes, it is important to always stay abreast of policy changes that may impact how you do your job and how you process any short sale that lands on your plate.

The most important thing to do is to read, read, read. Follow short sale specialists and those who blog about short sales on AGBeat, Google+, facebook, and twitter. Set up a Google Alert for the term ‘short sale’ and you will receive Google’s top short sale picks daily in your email inbox. Visit mortgagor websites to read up on their specific policies and procedures.

Don’t take on too much

And, when you get a call from a prospective short sale seller, make sure that you don’t bit off more than you can chew. Agents in most of America right now are clamoring for listings since we are in the midst of a listing shortage. But, if you are going to take on a short sale, be sure that it is a deal that you can close. And, if you have your doubts, why not partner up with a local agent that can mentor your and assist you in getting the job done? After all, half a commission check is better than none!

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