Get Permission First

I am beginning to develop another geographic domain name that I just acquired. I plan to announce the acquisition in a few days – once the transfer is final, but since the agreement is signed and the money is in escrow, I began to develop the name today. I am building a very simple and basic site, which will allow me to monetize it more easily using Adsense. While this isn’t going to generate substantial revenue, it will help protect the name from falling out of the Google algorithm.
Long story short, I began contacting area hotels I want to list on the site. Ultimately, I would like to list and describe 3-4 hotels in the region for SEO purposes (I will do the same for restaurants, golf courses, and one or two other key categories). I am planning to list the biggest chain hotels in the area, since it will be difficult to close an advertising deal with them when the site is fully developed, and if I give something away for free now, it would be very difficult to convert them to paying customers in a few months. Essentially, I might as well give them free advertising now, since they probably won’t pay for it down the road.
Long story short, I contacted the local operations manager for one of the hotels, asking if I could use the photographs from the parent company’s website. He said it would be ok, and I should send him an email to confirm. I noticed the domain name in his email address was the franchise company that owns this hotel and two others in the city, so I decided to call them and ask for a blanket permission. I talked to a web manager, who without giving it a second thought, said I could absolutely not use the photographs from the chain’s website as it is against company policy.
I explained my initial plans for the site and that they would bear no costs, and he said he would take it higher up the chain, but for now, I can’t use the photographs. I could have very easily used the pictures and pleaded ignorance, but with an expensive geographic domain name like the one I own, I opted to ask first. Experience tells me that it’s a smart move, as the manager at a hotel in Lowell told me the exact same thing when I began developing I am still awaiting approval on those images.
The moral of the story is that asking for permission may backfire, although risking a cease and desist order and creating bad will with a hotel chain isn’t worth taking the “better to ask for forgiveness after than permission before” approach.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn
  1. Excellent point – I have started to develop out a couple of domains and used my own photography and videos for the sites. That way, there is no question who owns it! Now I have to watch for people grabbing my photos…


    I think using your own photographs is a great way to do it. Not only will it save you from legal issues, but by virtue of being in the city and walking around, you will learn about it and get a good feel of the city.

  2. Except where the owner of the building then claims copyright infringement over the images of the building.
    I had this problem with a company who created postcards of the Louvre in Paris without realizing there is about a 10 cent royalty payable on images of the big pyramid outside as the copyright in that structure is owned by the original artist.
    Can also be an issue if the photo contains the company’s logo.
    Can’t wait for the imminent death of copyright so ridiculous things like this are no longer an issue.

  3. Something else to be careful with when it comes to photos is that you don’t want them to have any (except perhaps in a “news” section; where they come down after some time period–check w/an IP attorney to be sure) “factors” which could identify specific people; ie their faces.
    Which is why many non-news shows these days obscure people’s faces.
    Thankfully; including for the protection of all of ours photos and creative work; copyright will always be with us.

  4. Steve,
    I have a feeling too…we’ll see shortly I guess.
    Elliot – be careful, the site could still fall out of google…some speculate that when the big G sees a change of ownership it sets of some alarm bells in sunnyvale…

  5. I wouldn’t worry…a one or two word exact match will come back up fairly fast and any links will still be pointing in. I think I know which name(a) too and I’m jealous already 🙂 keep up the good work ellliot…its motivating to watch what your up to.

    I bought the name privately, so I think it will be a surprise. Someone asked me if it was – I only wish I could afford that!

  6. Elliot. Your ‘white hat approach’ is important for other reasons as well. The internet, domaining and related markets will only gain mainstream legitimacy if the community takes the high-road on trademark and copyright issues. Asking permission can also sometimes lead to unexpected relationship. Kudos to ‘doing it right.’

  7. You wish you could afford, while I wish I could afford the third largest city in Louisiana.

    That’s not the name I bought either 😉

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