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 Lowell.com. 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.
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