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Frequently asked questions

Copyright protects the author of an original work against unlawful use of their work, including unauthorized copying and changes. Images are copyright-protected to the creator from the moment of creation, meaning you need permission to use them in most cases, whether they are registered with the copyright office, contain a watermark, or are noted with a copyright symbol. 

Copyright protects works by writers, painters, and photographers – but copyright doesn’t just protect art. Copyright protection also extends to appliances, technical and scientific works and much more, if the requirement of originality is met. Photos and illustrations are original as soon as you can recognize creative choices in the image, such as in the choice of lighting, perspective, or subject of the image. Given these types of choices can be seen in almost every photo and illustration, most of these images are copyright-protected. Photographs are subject to copyright protection under the Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code. 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. In North America, this means that creators’ rights and their photos and illustrations are copyright protected similarly in the United States and Canada.

Visual Rights Group tracks compliance with copyright law and mediates infringements on behalf of many photographers, illustrators, image archives, press services and agencies throughout the world. Headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium, we also have offices in the United Kingdom, the United States (where we have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau), and France.

If you do indeed possess a valid license, please contact us as soon as possible by e-mail at We will update our records after we receive documentation of that license or other acceptable proof.

Just because you found an image on the Internet through a search engine does not mean that the image doesn’t have copyright protection. Many of the photographs that you can find via Google Images are copyright-protected, as Google also indicates by the notification ‘Images may be subject to copyright.’ You should always assume an image is copyright protected unless you have confirmed otherwise. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a valid license or permission before you use such images.

The fact that the author is not mentioned on or near a photograph does not mean that the photographer has relinquished his or her rights to that photograph. Indeed, there is no obligation to put © or ‘copyright’ on or near the work or to add a watermark. The copyright is granted automatically to the author of the work and must be respected, even when his or her name is not mentioned and whether it is registered or not. And although registration provides additional benefits to the copyright holder, it is not necessary for a work to be protected by copyright.

Under copyright law, you are responsible for the images you use on your website, even when those images were placed there by an employee or a supplier.

Whenever you place content of third parties (such as blog posts, product brochures, presentations, etc.) on your website, you are required to verify with the third party whether copyright has been cleared. You are responsible for all the material you put on your website, even when it has been supplied by a third party.

You have placed the image(s) on your website without the author’s permission. This constitutes an infringement of the author’s copyright and you must remove the photograph(s) immediately.  Removing the photographs, however, does not mean you do not need to provide compensation.  You have already infringed the author’s copyright and are required to pay compensation for that past unauthorized use to resolve the matter.

No, you have already infringed on the image and must therefore compensate the copyright for the illegal use.

You are responsible for ensuring that you have the rights to use an image. If you are using a template or images from a subscription service, you are still responsible if that company didn’t license the image for your use or you were supposed to replace the image with one of your own.

Yes, these organizations must respect the same copyright laws as everyone else. However, VRG is sensitive to their special circumstances and may be able to reduce the requested settlement fee upon proof  of non-profit or charitable status.

This letter does not constitute an attempt to collect a debt. It is a demand for you to pay a settlement offer to resolve the problem created by your unauthorized use of images. The settlement offer is made in a good faith attempt to avoid attorneys’ fees and expenses to you and to our client. You have the right to challenge the offer, and you can do so by sending an e-mail to By doing so, you refuse to accept our settlement offer, and we reserve the right to initiate legal proceedings for copyright infringement.

You must promptly remove the image(s) from your website and from the image library of your website and any servers, so that even the image URL(s) is/are no longer active.

“Fair Use,” or the Fair Dealing” doctrine, allows limited use of copyrighted works for specific and limited purposes, including some education and research. This exception does not mean any education, news, or nonprofit organization’s use of photography or illustrations is considered “fair use.” Some of these limited uses do not require permission from the copyright owner. Whether a particular use is fair use depends on the facts of each case. The law lists several factors that courts must consider together in determining whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a permitted “Fair Use” or an infringement of the copyright.


Editorial or news uses focused on the subject are exceptions, but this does not mean you can use an image to illustrate any article with a relevant photo of the subject of the article without obtaining a license or permission from the copyright holder. Fair use does allow for the use of the photo if the article is about the specific picture, not the general subject of the image. Concerning educational uses, we recognize that there are interpretations. The most accepted and “fair” understanding of Fair Use generally allows for using copyrighted material in an academic setting, such as a teacher using images in a classroom or a student using images in their assignments, papers, etc. Learn more here  

Public domain refers to content that is not or is no longer protected by copyright. The duration of copyright varies for different types of work and from country to country. Some examples of public domain in the U.S. include all works published before 1923, works that are out of copyright (generally 70 years after the death of the author) or works that fell out of copyright for failure to register or renew under the 1909 Act or for lack of notice before 1989 and works created by the U.S. government. Learn more about public domain and other terms at

Please contact us as soon as possible by e-mail at If you do indeed possess a valid settlement, we will update our records after we receive documentation of that settlement or other acceptable proof.