Whether it’s on your website or social media pages, images are a great way to stand out amongst the crowd. If your business regularly uses images in the production of its content, you may find yourself encountering the thorny issue of image copyrighting. In this post, we’ll provide a bit more information to keep you on the right side of the rules.

The low-down on copyrighted images

In its simplest form, image copyrighting is a form of legal protection given to whoever first created an image – although, of course, the legal criteria are much more detailed. This protection begins from the moment the image is created, and does not need to be registered at a copyright office in order to be put into effect, although registering can provide extra protection.

The copyright owner then becomes the only person legally capable of reproducing or re-using the image, unless they grant their express permission for someone to do so, or there is a form of copyright exception involved.

Because of these stringent copyright laws, even the mere act of printing off a copy of the image or adding a link to an image in a blog post without the copyright owner’s permission, can be viewed as an infringement of copyright. As a result, to make sure your organisation avoids any trouble, it is always best to seek the copyright holder’s permission before using an image, unless you can obtain a licence to use it via a third-party site.

When does image copyright expire?

So, how long do these image rights actually last? Under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988, the copyright for photographs currently lasts for the duration of the creator’s life, and then an additional 70 years. However, for photographs taken before the Act was passed, the copyright span is slightly less, set at an additional 50 years from their death.

When the question of copyright gets complicated

Many people now obtain images from third-party sites, which offer royalty-free images for purchase. Some images may be available for commercial use, while other images may be reserved purely for editorial usage, for example, in news articles. These images all come with the appropriate licensing and copyright information. However, sometimes the copyright owners of these images can decide they no longer wish their work to be available in this way, and then you can find yourself in difficulty if they discover their image on your website.

Because of this, the safest way to use images is either to opt for free-to-use pictures, which are available on a number of sites and can be used for any purpose, or to contact the owner of a copyrighted image and ask for their express permission to use it.

Keeping on top of your image copyrights

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