Q: What is copyright?
A: Copyright is a form of protection provided by the law to the authors of “original works of authorship.” By virtue of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, works are protected in all 160 countries that are party to the Convention, as well as various other laws such as the US copyright act.
Q: Does this apply to all images?
A: Yes, this applies to all images. From the time it is created, a photo or other image is automatically protected by copyright.
Q: What is copyright infringement?
A: Infringement can include a violation of the rights of the creator or rights holder. Examples of imagery infringement may include:
• Use of whole or part of an image without permission
• Use beyond the scope of a license or permission
• Adapting an image without permission (art rendering)
• Asking another photographer to identically recreate the image
Q: Who’s responsible when infringement occurs?
A: Responsible parties may include:
• The party that infringed (the photographer or the person that stole the image in the first place), even if unintentionally
• Employees or others who participated in the original infringement
• Anyone who published the infringing image, whether they had knowledge or not
• Anyone who authorized or encouraged infringement
Q: Why should I worry about copyright infringement?
A: Infringement of copyright may result in monetary damages, lawsuits, costly legal fees and under some rare circumstances, criminal charges.
Q: Surely no-one will be able to find one image in the whole of the internet?
A: New technology now enables copyright owners to identify unlicensed imagery and act to protect their rights. Imagery is ‘fingerprinted’ so that it can be tracked and found in use, even if it has been modified, recreated or if only part of the image has been used. The image is then flagged up to the copyright owner so that they can check if the correct license is held.
Q: I’m using an image I found through a Google Image search. If it’s on the internet, doesn’t that mean it’s free?
A: No. Just because an image is on the internet, it doesn’t mean the image is free to use. You may still need the correct license to use it. There is a difference between an image being online and an image being “in the public domain” (the term given to content that is not owned or controlled by anyone).
Q: Someone else created my website. Am I liable if the images are not licensed correctly?
A: If a third-party designer, employee, contractor or intern designed and developed your company’s website, you are responsible for ensuring they have licensed the images for your use. If no valid licenses exist the liability of any infringement may fall on the company (the end client) who used the image.
Q: If someone else built my website, how will I know when the licenses will expire?
A: Don’t assume your designer or image provider will contact you about an expiring license. Where the license to the image expires (which is generally not the case with royalty-free images), the imagery provider may send a renewal notice to the purchaser of the license, so your designer may receive this notice if they licensed it on your behalf.
It is best to get invoice numbers or sales order numbers for the images on the website and contact your imagery provider to confirm if the license is connected to your website. It’s also wise to keep all your licenses organized so that you know the scope and expiration dates of each license.
Q: I’m just a blogger and my site is non-commercial. Can I use images for free?
A: In most cases, no. Unless your use is specifically permitted by copyright law, all the images on your website must be properly licensed, regardless of the nature of your site. You can, however, license very inexpensive images from many imagery providers that are perfect for web use and will be properly licensed.
Q: How can I be sure I’ve taken the appropriate steps in licensing an image?
A: There are various places that you can go for information; hopefully this website will give you a basic understanding of the potential risks you need to bear in mind. You should consult with your legal counsel if you have specific questions. Please also see our resources section for more information and also take a look at our ‘what you need to do’ section.