A janitorial supply corporation, Master Maintenance, hired a third-party Web developer, West Central Ohio Internet Link, Ltd., to redesign its Web site. As part of the site redesign, the parties agreed that there should be photographs of the janitorial supplies sold by Master Maintenance. In updating the site, one of West Central’s employees uploaded several photographs, including four owned by Corbis Corporation, a visual solutions provider and owner of, among other things, a large collection of photographs. In promoting its services, Corbis makes available for viewing low-resolution images in an online gallery. In finding at summary judgment that not only was West Central liable for copyright infringement, but Master Maintenance was also liable for vicarious infringement, the court noted that Master Maintenance had (1) received a direct financial benefit from the infringement, and (2) had the right and ability to stop the infringement—the company’s employees were responsible for approving all changes made by West Central to the site—but failed to do so.
TIP: When hiring a Web site developer, be sure to ask your developer where its content has come from. If acting as a Web site developer, be sure to educate employees about what content can and cannot be used. Since content is so easy to find and copy on the Internet, employees need to understand that just because something is on the Internet does not mean that it is free for the taking.