Use of Images and Photographs on the Internet: Do you have permission?

When searching for images on the internet, many are unaware that if they save and reuse the image, they may in fact be at risk of infringing rights in somebody else’s work.

Whose images are you using?

If you want to use an image or photograph on the internet, but you are not the creator of that image and did not take the photograph then you will need the permission of the copyright owner prior to using that image or photograph.  If you use an image or photograph without permission and the image or photograph is protected by copyright then you will be infringing said copyright.  In cases of copyright infringement legal action may arise not only resulting in financial penalties, but deliberate infringement on a commercial scale may also lead to criminal prosecution.

How long does copyright last?

Copyright in images or photographs can last for a surprisingly long time.  The length of the copyright period will depend on when the image was created, but in many cases this can be as long as the life of the creator plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year of their death.

Who is the copyright owner?

The copyright owner is usually the person or persons who created the image or took the photograph.  Unless the creator of the image or photograph is an employee and the work was created as part of their job, in which case the employer is the copyright owner.  The ownership of copyright can be further complicated if the rights have been assigned or licenced to another person or company.  There may also be more than one copyright owner, when for example a number of different people and/or companies were involved in creating the work.  This later situation may occur if you take a photograph of a work protected by copyright, and that work is the main focus of your photograph, because you may need the permission of the owner of that work in order to use your photograph on the internet.

When do you need permission to use an image?

If you have created an image yourself, you are usually free to use that image as you wish, unless as mentioned above you have photographed a copyright work (for example a painting), you are an employee and created the image in the course of your employment, or you have agreed in writing that the copyright in such images belongs to someone else.

If you are not clearly the owner of the image or photograph then you should seek the owner’s permission through a licence, unless the terms and conditions of the website supplying that image (if it is the copyright owner’s website) permits use thereof.

Remember that the copyright symbol © does not have to be present for copyright to exist. 

Sharing or posting a web link to an image posted publically online by the copyright owner is normally permitted, unless it is allowing users to circumvent paywalls or subscription services.  However, copying copyright images and hosting them on another website without permission of the copyright owner will be viewed as copyright infringement.

Are your images protected?

If you are worried that your images are not adequately protected and are being used by others without your permission then please contact us and we can discuss taking action to prevent this.


© 2018 Wilson Gunn