If Facebook and other social media platforms appear to have a cart-blanche ‘we can use your images’ policy then why can’t you do the same and use other people’s images without asking for permission first? After all, it’s better to apologise later than ask first, right?
Wrong. Using images online without permission isn’t as prevalent as you might think, purely because the law offers image owners substantial protection against theft, unauthorised use, or copyright infringement. The world of copyright doesn’t just cover the written word, but visual images too, from photographs to drawings, digital designs and even video content. As long as you can prove the image belongs to you, nobody has the right to use it without your expressed permission.
A Copyright Notice – find out more about copyrighted images
Copyright notices are distributed by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. They’re to help small businesses and individuals understand the protection they have under the UK’s current copyright legislation, which admittedly, is incredibly complicated. It’s specifically for people who want to use digital or photographic images on the internet, and has been designed to try and keep pace with the rapidly changing online world. It’s not legal advice, but general guidelines to help you understand what your rights are. You can download the full pdf file here.
The basics – what you need to know
If you want to use photographs, images or illustrations then you’ll find they are generally protected by copyright, unless they expressly state that the image is copyright-free. If it is then you can use it as you wish, or within certain restrictions. However, in the majority of cases you either have to pay for a licence to use an image, or ask the owner’s permission.
The creator of the image is the person who owns the copyright on it. Don’t assume that just because there is no copyright symbol on an image that it’s copyright-free. It’s not a requirement to mark all copyrighted images with the © symbol. You may find that an image has more than one copyright owner, so again, don’t assume that just because you have permission from one copyright holder, that you immediately have the right to use the image. You may need to seek permission from the other copyright holders too.
Many photos and images you’ll see on the internet belong to photo or stock libraries. These either own the copyright of a picture directly, or offer it for use via a licencing agreement with the creator of the image. You’ll find that how you use a photo-stock image is often limited under the terms and conditions of the library’s agreement policy, as well as being a copyrighted image. These are not part of copyright law, but infringing them may mean that the library removes the image from your site, or starts legal proceedings for breach of contract.
Copyright on images usually lasts for the lifetime of the creator, plus 70 years after their death. However, just because a picture is old does not mean it is out of copyright and can be freely used. Copyright for particular images may pass to the creator’s estate, or may be covered in other legislation.
I don’t know who owns the image – how do I get permission to use it?
Again, don’t assume that just because you can’t find out who owns an image that you can then use it online with impunity. If it’s a modern image then there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere, will recognise the image and inform the original creator. If you’ve done everything you can to find the owner of an image and are still having no luck, then you can apply for an orphan works licence from the IPO. This licence lets people use orphan copyright images for both commercial and non-commercial purposes under a licence agreement.
With billions of digital images now floating around the internet, it’s tempting to assume that ‘borrowing’ someone else’s image for your own tiny website will go unnoticed and won’t be a problem. However, remember that image has been created by someone, and is therefore their property. At the end of the day it’s their decision who uses it, and how.
At best, a breach of copyright by using someone else’s image without their permission will result in a request that you credit the original creator, or take the image down. At worst, you could end up in court facing a costly legal battle over copyright misuse. If you find yourself in that position, or if someone has used your image without your permission, then talk to a solicitor specialising in copyright law.
Robert Small is Head of Dispute Resolution at Verisona Law and can be contacted on 023 9231 2051 or by email to email@example.com.
- Breach of contract
- Trade disputes
- On-line traders
- Supply of defective goods/services
- Claims under personal guarantees
- Debt & asset recovery
- Ownership disputes
- Development disputes
- Option agreements
- Boundary disputes
- Adverse possession
- Rights of way
- Enforcing securities
- Restrictions & encumbrances
- Land Registry applications
- Property/estate management
- Service charges
- Payment/certification disputes
- Building defects
- Sub-contractor disputes
- JCT, NEC, RIBA & similar design/build agreements
Landlord & Tenant disputes
- Rent arrears
- Guarantor’s liability
- Recovering possession
- Protected lease renewals
- Breach of covenant
- Disrepair claims
- Unlawful assignment/sub-letting
- Break clauses
- Rent reviews
- Administrators & receivers
- Recovery of recruitment fees
- Disputed cause of introduction
- Candidate suitability
- Dual introducers
- Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003
- Ownership and transfers of equity
- Unfair prejudice claims
- Derivative actions
- Partnership dissolution & winding up
- Bank mis-selling
- SWAPS/LIBOR claims
Protection of Intellectual Property rights
- Domain name disputes/cyber squatting
- Passing off
- Breach of confidentiality
- Copyright and trademark infringement
Making a claim for negligent advice
The client asked us to consider and advise on the conduct of their former solicitors during both of the cases. We careful analysed many files and documents, including the former solicitors’ files, and concluded that the client had a claim.
We pursued the solicitors for negligent advice and handling of the cases, with a view to recovering our client’s losses. This involved extensive dealings with the firm, through their professional indemnity insurers and city lawyers.
They refused to pay the claim, despite being provided with considerable supporting evidence and legal argument during various attempts to negotiate and settle the dispute.
Pursuing the professional negligence case in the High Court
We started High Court proceedings, which the former solicitors defended by denying the allegations and raising a number of technical legal points.
Ultimately we exerted sufficient pressure in the litigation to force a settlement before the case reached trial, resulting in our client recovering a six-figure sum. This represented the vast majority of all legal costs they had paid, as well as Verisona Law’s legal fees.
Individual Property Owner
“Verisona Law dealt with a complicated dispute with a former manufacturing supplier forced into administrative receivership. Their clear, calm advice never wavered: their tenacity and diligence provided our company with a successful result”.
MD of Textile Wholesaler
"Having recently used Verisona Law to help recover a commercial debt due to us, I would highly recommend them. Jeremy was very professional and helpful, giving information throughout the case, and he was also very calm which really helped us."
"I would like to thank you for the first class service we have received from you. Your advice and the professional way you treated us throughout culminated in a result which, prior to your appointment, seemed a long way away."