Guidance on copyright for therapists

First I'd like to say I have no objection to someone who intentionally steals an image or other material being sued. That's committing a crime, and you shouldn't do it. The problem is that if you use copyrighted material, even if you don’t know it’s copyright and have used it in good faith, you have still committed a crime in the eyes of the law.

Copyright and images

I've already said my piece about copyright and audios, but today my biggest area of concern today is images.

Some clipart sites say that their images are free to download, when they are actually copyright. Most sites do this unintentionally, a few have been accused of doing it deliberately to entrap those downloading the images, and my own experiences with this issue incline me to believe it happens.

Either way, those who hold rights to a lot of images often have excellent security software, so changing the file name, flipping it or just using part of it won't stop it showing up on their searches.

If you are found to be using a copyrighted image, you will get a letter pointing this out and asking for damages. This happens more often than you think, and there are sites offering advice and support if it happens to you. But technically you are guilty, so while it's worth trying politely to negotiate their figure down, it may be cheaper to pay up than to be taken to court.

In court, the amount awarded for the copyright infringement is often less than you were originally asked for, but you will have to pay costs for both sides which can be really expensive.

Guarding against copyright infringement

No-one wants to be paranoid about this, but a few simple precautions can help guard you against accidentally infringing someone's copyright.
  • don't copy Google image search results without checking the up-to-date copyright position with the originating site (even if you used words like 'copyright free' or 'royalty-free' in your search)
  • do use images from sites where you have a contract showing terms of use; there are some sites which are free (or ask for a voluntary donation, which seems only fair) and some where you pay a small amount
  • read the terms and conditions on the contract carefully, and make sure you stick to them (for example, most specifically forbid you to buy a small image and then enlarge it, or to claim that a person on an image has used your services if they have not)
  • always download via an account on these sites, so you have proof of where you got the image, and the terms and conditions that applied
  • ask your web designer, if you have one, to indemnify you against them having used copyright images, accidentally or otherwise
  • change the images on web templates (especially the free ones) so you know the provenance of everything you publish
  • if in doubt, ask the site offering the image for advice on your proposed use
Or, the best option of all
  • take your own photos for websites and leaflets ... and
  • if they include people, get written permission for them to be published as part of your PR


Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
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