Privacy and Permission

Copyright symbolThese days, privacy and permission surround our digital footprint in ways we may not even realize. We’ve become very concerned with protecting our privacy and the privacy of those around us. We give organizations permission to access certain information about us in exchange for use of their services.

Every website you engage with has (or should have) these documents: Terms of Use (outlines how we must act when we’re using their website), and Privacy Policy (what the organization does with the information we provide). Software we download; services we sign up for – it’s everywhere.

Speaking about permission, are you sure that you have permission to use the media posted on your church’s website? Photos, video, music? If you sourced the content online, did you obtain a license for it? Was it from a free site or something you paid for? Is it covered under a Creative Commons license? You want to be sure that you have the right to use it. There could be legal and financial consequences.

Recently one of our churches was contacted by a company in Toronto claiming that the church was in violation of copyright laws. Specifically, they claimed that the church was using an image on their website which they had no license or permission to use. The company said they were acting on behalf of the owner of the image and were asking for $1000 +HST in compensation or legal action would be taken. A subsequent email was sent to the church with a reduced offer of $400 +HST. (Note: This has yet to be settled so we won’t reveal the name of the company or the name of the church).

Current technology allows software (bots and trolls) to mine the internet and entire websites for images that contain other copyrighted information. Digital material may contain embedded information called metadata. The creator of the digital media can add all sorts of identifying information in the metadata (such as date created, author, geographical info, equipment used, title, keywords, etc.). It was through use of troll software that the company found the image which was buried deep in the website on a post from five years ago.

We may not be happy that the company chose to go after a church, but we’ll take this as an opportunity to remind each other about some best practices around media creation and use. More specifically, to ensure that you have the proper licenses to use the images and other media (videos, audio, etc.) that you use in your creations or website. If anything is in question, take it down immediately! Don’t wait for a registered letter to arrive demanding payment.

Here are some best practices to follow when considering to post different types of media:

You may have more best practices or links to add more to this list. For this and any concerns or questions you may have, please email us at

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