If I receive papers that I am being sued for an image on my business website, that was placed there by the web designer, what should I do?

I received a document saying I was being sued for having an image on my website, that was placed their by a web designer that I paid. The letter was a cease and desist of using the image and that because I used it, I know owe the photographer $1,185. I didn’t know that the image was copy written because I wasn’t the person that got the image from the internet. What steps should I take and am I responsible or should the person that designed my web site be responsible?

Asked on June 5, 2012 under Business Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you have receive an actual summons and complaint, start by filing an answer denying liability--if you fail to answer, you  will lose by default. If you received simply a demand letter, let the other party know that you had no idea the image belonged to somone else because a designer put it up for you, provide them the designer's contact information, and tell them you'll take the image down immediately. If you did receive a complaint and answered it, you can then also let the other party know this, in the hope they will dismiss their complaint.

If the other party (the owner of the image) is determined to sue you, they can--as the website owner, you are responsible for the images on it. They could only seek the actual fair value of their image, which is likely substantially less than they are demanding, and will have to prove that fair value.

You in turn should be able to sue the designer for his/her negligence (or carelessness) in exposing you to liabilty, and/or for breach of contract, since in purchasing a website, a design, and/or images from him or her, you were purchasing ones which you could legally use--providing ones you could not use would be a breach of contract. You should be able to recover any of  your own losses from the designer.

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