Frequently asked questions
Copyright protects the author of an original work against unlawful use of their work, including unauthorised copying and changes.
As a rule, copyright protects works by artists and performers such as writers, painters and photographers – but copyright doesn’t just protect art. By way of example, an illustrative photo in a scientific article will also be protected. Copyright protection also extends to appliances, technical and scientific works and much more, as long as the requirement of originality is met. Photos are original as soon as you can recognise creative choices in the photo; such as in the choice of lighting, perspective or subject of the photo. Given these types of choices can be seen in almost every photo, the vast majority of photos are copyright-protected.
Photographic works are also listed under Article 2 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris, 24 July 1971) as works to be protected both from a literary and copyright perspective.
You obtain copyright automatically as soon as you produce an original work that involves making creative decisions. The term ‘creative decisions’ covers a broad scope here, and includes the lighting and angle of a product photo, for example.
As such, you don’t need to submit an application to register your work and you don’t need to place a copyright notification on your work, either.
Copyright ensures you are the intellectual owner of your work, and that you have control over where and how your work may be used. Only you can decide where and when your work will be published, and you’re entitled to attach your name to your work.
Your copyright is breached when someone publishes or reproduces your work without your consent. This includes printing and selling physical copies, as well as placing your photo on a generally accessible website. There are, however, legal exceptions to this rule, such as the right to quote, reporting the latest news, parodies, and use for educational purposes. You can find out more about how these are applied in our blog.
Yes. The fact that your photo is online does not affect the copyright you hold for the photo in question. The photo still remains your property, and others must always request your consent if they want to use it.
To check whether your images are being used online without your consent, you can search for them using Google Images. Click on the camera icon on the right-hand side of the search bar and either upload your photo from your computer or enter the URL to the photo. Google will then show you where your photo can be found online. For each result, you can check whether it is indeed your photo, whether it is online with your consent, and whether your copyright has been breached.
One downside to this method is that you won’t always find your images if for example, someone has edited them to add text or a filter. What’s more, it also requires a lot of time and effort, as you have to trawl through the results, check whether there has been a copyright infringement, and even take action yourself. This means you have to have the necessary legal knowledge given that copyright law provides for several exceptions. Furthermore, you can only add photos in Google Images one at a time, so a large photo archive will really eat up your time.
If you’d prefer to focus on taking photos, you can outsource this task to us. Visual Rights Group boasts software that can search large quantities of photos at the same time, with a larger number of – and better – results than Google Images. Finally, you can also call on a specialised team to check whether the results contain any infringements.
If someone uses your work without your consent, you’re well within your rights to take action – you may contact the person in question to demand they take the photo down and pay you compensation. This sort of communication is often very time-consuming and you don’t always have the requisite knowledge to deal with it. This results in you hiring a lawyer anyway to deal with the legal side of things. Alternatively, you could turn to Visual Rights Group – our team not only identifies copyright infringements, but also takes action to make sure you are compensated for your work. Finally, we do so in a cost-effective manner, and you’ll only receive an invoice from us once your case is resolved and your compensation has been paid.