• Allen Mechen

Copyright! A quick (non boring) guide to image use.

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

The Image Copyright Rules You Need To Know About

There’s nothing quite like a stunning image when it comes to grabbing a viewer’s attention. Whether you’re planning an events marketing campaign, hoping to maximise the potential of your social media post, or shouting about your latest successful event, powerful pictures are key.

However, you could soon come a cropper if you’re not well-versed in image copyright rules. They’re not difficult to understand, but it is important that you know about them if you’re using images online. Protect yourself from shameful hiccoughs and huge fines by following these simple tips; they could save you a lot of money!

Does Your Photographer Hold The Rights To Your Images?

In many cases, it’s likely that the images you’re hoping to use are ones taken at your event, by a photographer who you have hired. So, you might be forgiven for thinking that you own the copyright to the images. But this isn’t always the case. In fact, you need to check with your photographer what the usage rights are on the images you have paid for.

Some photographers will be happy to sell usage rights to their clients, however others might prefer to retain these rights. If the photographer has retained these rights then they will likely have set rules on what you can and cannot do with the images they have taken, and you may well need to seek permission to use them for marketing purposes.

The ‘Public Domain’ Myth

Many people believe that if they find an image on the internet, on a site like Google, Twitter or Facebook, that it is in the ‘public domain’ and therefore free to use. This isn’t true, and can land you in a lot of trouble if you happen to choose an image which is owned by a professional photographer or company such as Getty Images.

This is a commonly believed myth, and even the BBC fell foul of it as recently as 2011. The fact that an image has found its way onto social media doesn’t mean that it’s fair game. The original owner is still well entitled to the rights over the image, and can come looking for you if you happen to use it!

If in Doubt Don’t Use It

The best way to ensure that you avoid hefty fines and embarrassing copyright incidents is by following this simple rule. If you find an image online the first thing you need to do is contact the image owner. If you’re not able to do so, you’re better off not using the image at all. It can be tempting to risk it if you find an image that seems perfect for your event marketing, but you’ll definitely regret your decision if the original image owner tracks you down.

Where to Find Rights-Free Images

There are many useful websites offering images which are safe and free to use, it’s just a case of knowing where to find them. Instead of searching google for images, it’s a much better idea to take a look at one of these sites.

There are plenty of free options offering really impressive imagery, including Picography, The Pattern Library, Unsplash and the excellently named Death to the Stock Photo. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on sites like these, you can also buy royalty-free images from sites such as Getty Images, Shutterstock and iStock.

Sourcing images online is full of potential pitfalls, but as long as you’re well aware of copyright and image usage rules, you won’t come up against any problems. Remember, if you’re ever in any doubt as to the origins of the image, it’s a far better idea to remove it and replace with a picture that you’re confident you have full rights to use. Royalty-free image websites are a great place to find images like these. And you never know, you could find yourself inspired by the unusual images you discover!