Frequently asked questions
I received a letter
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.
Visual Rights Group tracks compliance with copyright law and mediates in infringements on behalf of a large number of photographers and agencies. Depending on the image in question, this can take place in two ways – either by offering a valid licence to persons and organisations using the images without a licence (the retroactive licence offered by Visual Rights Group covers past use), or by settling and paying compensation.
You can check Visual Rights Group is the real deal through Belgium’s Crossroads Bank for Enterprises by entering the company number (0541.831.904) or clicking on this link.
Creating a photo takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge, and often involves specialised equipment. For many photographers it’s a full-time job, and media and photography agencies often have plenty of professional photographers on their books. It’s only fair, then, that they are remunerated for their work through licences.
If a photo is used without permission and without payment, the copyright owner suffers damages on three fronts:
- Missing licence income: the copyright owner earns a living from their photos.
- The photo takes on a life of its own and creates a snowball effect, particularly if you fail to include the copyright owner’s name: there’s a risk that your visitors will also use the photo without mentioning or remunerating the copyright owner, and the copyright owner sees competition from their own work on Google Images.
- The copyright owner’s paying customers feel put out as they’ve paid for something that others are using for free: this is particularly the case where exclusive licences are involved. What’s more, this creates unfair competition, as you offer the same content as their commercial website, but without incurring any costs yourself.
Please contact us as soon as possible by email at firstname.lastname@example.org (this is our preferred method) or by phone:
United Kingdom: +44 0 203 488 4971
Belgium: +32 03 304 74 26
France: +33 03 59 82 13 38
United States: +1 844 666 3362
If it transpires that you do indeed hold a valid licence, we’ll close our file and update the details in our database.
The European Enforcement Directive sets out in detail what is taken into account when dealing with a copyright infringement. This includes the following factors:
- Costs of identification and research (Whereas point 26)
- Costs of drawing up and sending files (Article 14)
- Licence price (Article 13)
- Moral prejudice (Article 13)
- Other negative economic factors (Article 13)
Costs of identification and research are costs we incur to identify the infringement on a technical level and establish whether or not there has been a breach. Specially trained staff check whether it’s the same photo and whether a legal exception to copyright rules applies. The photographer then verifies whether a licence was granted for the photo in question.
Costs of drawing up and sending files include the costs for drawing up files, taking any screenshots and further documenting the infringement, and for searching for the necessary address and other details. Finally, we’ll double-check the file before it is sent out.
The licence fee is the remuneration the photographer or agency usually receives for the photo.
Moral prejudice means the damages suffered by the photographer because they’ve not been given the chance to consent to the use of their photo, any changes to the photo or for having their name left unmentioned.
Other negative economic factors include any of the photographer or agency’s paying clients wanting to pay less for a photo when there is less exclusivity attached to said photo. Why should they continue to pay while others simply use the photo as they please?
When suggesting a settlement (be it a retroactive licence or damages and file costs), we take into account not only the price of the photo, but also a whole host of other damages in our proposal, including copyrights, licence fees, damages and a price that’s in line with the market.
Visual Rights Group falls under the supervision of FPS Economy (the Belgian Federal Public Service Economy). Its status of a management entity is governed by the Belgian Code of Economic Law (Book XI, Title 5: “Copyrights and Neighbouring Rights”). FPS Economy verifies that we observe this correctly.
If, however, you suspect that there’s a problem with your case, please get in touch with our team. They’ll be happy to explain things in more detail. Should you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact FPS Economy.
You placed the photos on your website without the author’s consent – that’s a breach of their copyright. Even if you decide you no longer wish to use the photos in the future, compensation will still be due as the photographer has lost out on income through your use of the images. And even if you decide you no longer wish to use them, this doesn’t change the amount of the compensation requested.
Under copyright law, you are liable for the use of photos on your website, even if they’ve been added by an employee or a supplier. Moreover, you are free to get in touch with the person or supplier responsible for placing the photos.
If you place third-party material (such as blogs, product brochures, presentations and so on) on your website, you must check with the third party in advance that this is above board in terms of copyright. You remain liable for the material that you place on your website, even if it comes from someone else.
Photos found via Google Images are often copyright-protected, and this is communicated by Google with the statement “Images may be copyrighted”. It’s your responsibility to check that you hold a licence before using the photo.
The fact that a photo doesn’t mention an author’s name doesn’t mean that the photographer has relinquished their rights to the photo. There is no obligation to place the copyright symbol (©) or the word ‘copyright’ on any work. The copyright is automatically attributed to the author and must be respected, even if their name isn’t mentioned.
Almost every photo involves decisions taken by the photographer. Such decisions may cover their initial choices regarding lighting and exposure time, the camera and lens, the distance between the photographer and the object (relative size of the object), body positions and angles, and much more. These choices represent a composition of features that each contribute to the individual nature of the work. The originality of works is therefore well established.