Here’s £50 for your talk – and a £1,000 bill for copyright breach

Plenty of us astrologers enjoy giving talks, whether it’s to a local group, or at an astrology conference. We don’t do it for the money (astrology groups aren’t rich, and usually just cover travel expenses), but because we love our art. We often brighten up our presentations with some relevant images, too. If you’re giving a talk about Albert Einstein or Greta Thunberg, it makes sense to have a picture of them to illustrate it, together with images that relate to the topic you’re talking about. Where can you get such images? Well, Google has loads, so popping an image into your presentation is dead easy.

The problem is, it may be illegal. If you find an image on Google, somebody created that image, whether it’s a photo, a drawing, or a diagram. They own the copyright to it, and if you use it without their permission, they might sue you.

Far fetched? After all, there were only 20 people at your talk – who’s going to find out?

Well, there’s a very good chance that if you allowed your talk to be recorded, or you provided a handout, that the recording or handout will end up on some webspace somewhere; YouTube, for instance, or a local group’s Facebook page. And when something is on the web, it can be found, not just by people, but by web “spiders” whose sole purpose in cyberspace is to crawl the web looking for images. Some of those spiders are owned by major press agencies, and they’re looking for very specific images – ones they own the copyright to.

That seemingly innocent photo you used of a speeding train, or a famous person, might be the copyright of a major press agency. And they don’t care whether you were paid £50 or £50,000 for your talk; as far as they’re concerned, their image is worth £500, and you used two of them, so you get sent a bill for £1,000 for breach of copyright in “full and final settlement” of the “damage” that you’ve caused – and to rub salt into the wounds, you have to take the offending presentation down and aren’t allowed to use it again.

Does this mean we astrologers have to resort to giving boring text-dense presentations with no nice pictures? Not at all! Fortunately, there are ways of using great images, and staying within the law so you don’t end up with a nasty surprise in the form of a hefty bill.

Check out my 10-minute video of staying on the right side of this minefield. And no, I won’t sue you if you download it and share it!