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Why we do not give away copyright

  |   Northlight Blog, Northlight Information

Copyright – what it is, why we don’t give it away

Why you need to be sure of the law

How we apply the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) to our images.

Why protecting our copyright is important to us, how we protect it under the law.

Why you should understand the consequences – to you and the copyright holder – of breaching copyright.

Dealing with copyright

Here in the UK, the copyright  of a photograph is automatically assigned, in law, to the photographer as soon as the shutter has clicked – there is no paperwork to complete and no public claim to the image needs to be made.

Why we maintain control over our images

For us, copyright is not an ‘artistic choice’ it is a point of law that allows us to protect our work and maintain control over the re-production of any of our images – and we need this control because:

  • Our images are our income – by selling them we make a living and pay the bills;
  • If we have taken photos on behalf of a client, we can reassure them that, because we monitor and protect our copyright, the images they have paid us for won’t be used by a third party;
  • We can control the quality of the reproduction of our images – a poor copy could be damaging to our reputation;
  • We can retain control over who is using our images and what they are using them for. This not only protects our reputation but also ensures that any of our clients who have either paid us to take images for them OR paid us for use of a particular picture, do not find ‘their’ image appearing either on a competitor’s website or associated with a brand or cause they do not want to be associated with.

Breaching copyright

When any of our (or any photographer’s, pro or amateur) images are used without permission there has been a breach of copyright – even if no financial gain is made by the person using the image.

It is the users responsibility to find out who owns the image and ask permission (and often pay a fee) to use the image BEFORE using it.

Unfortunately, the vast amount of photos available on the internet has given the impression that if a photo is on the internet, it’s there to be taken and used. It’s not – and making that assumption can be both embarrassing and costly, as the law allows for the owner of the copyright to make a (fair and reasonable) charge for the use of the image.

Leicester railway station

Just because you like our photo of Leicester’s railway station doesn’t mean you can use it for free.

Why “I didn’t know” isn’t an excuse

If you are a business owner and a copyright image appears on your website or any other type of promotional material, you are considered to be the publisher and are therefore responsible for the presence of that image even if someone else outside your company – for example a web design agency, an ex-member of staff, a temp or intern – put the image there.

Selling – or buying – copyright

If you have commissioned a photographer to take photographs for you, regardless of what you’re being told, you don’t NEED to buy copyright. While some photographers will sell the copyright to an image – sometimes called a ‘full buyout’ – this isn’t something we usually do. We – and most photographers – license our images for use instead. Buying copyright is an expensive – and often unnecessary – option and we believe that because of our generous licensing terms it’s not a choice our clients have to make.

If you don’t have permission?

Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for us to find our images in use without our permission. Here’s an article on how we pursue these breaches of our copyright.

There are also links to various national and supra-national copyright organisations on our main Site Copyright information page