If you don’t get permission from the photo copyright owners, you can end up paying a lot of money in damages and suffer bad PR for your site.
Unauthorized use of photos can be very expensive
Two lawsuits, Mavrix Photo Inc. v. BuzzFeed Inc. and Pacific Stock Inc. v. MacArthur & Company Inc., et. al., bring this point home. Both cases demonstrate what can go wrong when you use copyrighted photographs without permission from the copyright owner.
In Pacific Stock, MacArthur failed to respond to the lawsuit and a default judgment was entered against it. Exacerbating its problem, MacArthur actually included false copyright information when it used the photos. Among the allegations against MacArthur were “unfair competition, unlawful appropriation, unjust enrichment, unlawful appropriation, wrongful deception of the purchasing, and unlawful trading on Pacific’s goodwill …”