Often, companies question whether they can use a photograph available on the internet. Does the answer vary if the photograph was taken by a professional or an amateur? If it was taken by a smartphone? Up until what point can a photo be freely used? Is authorization required to use these images? Should you let someone know about it? These are some of the questions that arise when someone wants to use images or photographs.
First and foremost, not all photographs are copyrighted, only those that are original creations. This means that they have undergone a creative and intellectual process by the person who shot them.
For example, cedula and passport photos probably do not have copyright protection. Neither do photos taken accidentally by an animal. In both of these cases, there was no creative process by a human being. Yet, it is important to note that copyright protection need not require artistic merit as a condition to protect the work.
On the other hand, a photo taken at an important moment in history can be worth more than one that could be captured in a fixed place. These are factors that are taken into account when placing a value on any photographic work.
To use a photograph, it is important to consider whether you need to pay a fee, get permission, or if it is of free use. There are some photos that fall under the Creative Commons license, which implies general permission to use, as long as certain conditions are met. This could be simply mentioning the photographer’s name. The photo could also be part of an image bank which means that you can buy high quality images at competitive prices.
There are other cases in which the photos are not in image banks or of free use. In these instances, you need to get permission to use them. This can come from the photographer or a third party owner or authorized licensee who has permission to sell or sublicense the use of the photograph in question.
Once permission to use a photo has been granted, mentioning the photographer’s name is still generally required, although in some cases the name can be omitted. There can also be commercial and editorial restrictions for its use.
In any case, it is important to seek counsel to be 100% certain that you have complete permission if you expect to use a photograph. It is best to avoid legal problems caused by unauthorized use of someone’s property. Social media and the internet cause any content to turn viral and nowadays it is easier for photographers to identify unauthorized use of their work.
Author: Julián Rúiz