Q: My client gave me the copy (text) for their page, but I found out that it was taken from another website. What can I do?
A: I recently had a similar situation with a drawing that the (potential) client wanted me to copy. Even though my contract specifies that I will not be responsible for legal issues arising from materials that the client provides, I didn’t feel right copying someone else’s work without permission. Even if I put ethics aside, I don’t know if my contract would protect me if the copyright holder could prove that I had knowledge of the infringement and went ahead anyway. (Any legal experts out there who can comment on this?)
I handled it by writing:
Using the image (or redrawing it exactly) without getting permission from the copyright holder would leave both of us at risk for a copyright infringement lawsuit. Statutory damages for copyright infringement can be as high as $100,000.
(Actually, I found out later that statutory damages can be as high as $150,000, if the work was registered with the copyright office and the owner can prove “willful infringement.”)
Then I added a reasonable estimate for the cost to create an original drawing.
On one hand, the (potential) client didn’t freak out at me. On the other hand, she hasn’t replied yet (it’s been close to a week). If I lost the client, so be it.
Have you had a client ask you to use copyrighted images or text without permission? What did you do?