Copyright Law for Photos

In the days before the internet the closest you could come to breaching copyright for a photograph was cutting the page three girl out and hanging her on your wall. With the coming of the digital age, and the amount of Tweeters, Facebookers and other Social Mediaites posting anything from selfies to family holiday snapshots, the unauthorised use of photos has exploded. So how can you be sure someone won’t come looking for you after you download a pic of their Aunt Jessie in her bloomers?

Who owns Photos on the Net?

Although the copyright law for photos vary from country to country, one is pretty much set in concrete around the world and that is, the person who took the photo owns the photo and the copyright. A person may apply for, and be granted copyright, but this is not necessary according to the law.

You will need to pay a fee to use any copyrighted picture, this means you will need to contact the owner and negotiate with the a price based on how you wish to use it, There are however, ways you can use pictures on the net for free, such as using pictures that are in the Public Domain, the Fair Use doctrine and other ways. These will be expanded on in future articles.

What are the common traps?

One of the most common myths about photo usage is that “It will be OK as long as I credit the person who took the Photo”. This is not correct; it is still a breach of copyright, even if you credit the owner or source.

Another misconception is that it is fine to use a photo that does not have a copyright symbol ©. As we learned earlier though, it is not necessary for someone to register copyright, it is held the second you take the photo.

What are the penalties?

Depending on the seriousness of the breach, and who it is reported to, penalties can be up to US150, 000. Among the penalties are:

  • Payment of Damages
  • Injunctions preventing use of material
  • Orders to hand over any profits made
  • Orders to hand over copies of materials

You are most likely to be contacted first by the owner of the photos demanding some sort of payment before they will take any legal action and depending on what you have used the photo for, the owner may simply ask for some advertising on your site – if they are a professional photographer – or similar.

Conclusion – copyright law for photos

Although there are now literally hundreds of ways to get photos onto the internet, it is illegal to take any photo for your own use without the permission of the owner. If you are found to have breached these laws, there are many things that the owner can ask for in retribution up to USD150, 000.

Future articles will focus on how to go about acquiring photos that you can use for free and where to find them

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