SNAP - Photographs on the internet and copyright law

The European Court of Justice, remains our highest court (at least until next March). A recent judgment from that Court clarifies what we already knew but is a welcome reminder to those Social Media gurus as to what can and cannot be done and what should or should not be done.

(My seascape photograph)

If you take a photograph then you almost invariably own the copyright in the image. You can publish the photograph and, as long as you avoid misrepresentation, place it on your website or share it on social media, publish it in magazines, books and use it in any way you wish.

If someone else takes a photograph you will need the permission of the photographer to use the image.

A case from Germany, Land Nordrhein-Westfalen v Dirk Renockhoff considered a case where a photographer gave permission for one of his images, a view of Cordoba, to be used by a specific travel business but did not give that permission to anyone else to use the image for any other reasons. A school in Germany re-published the image on its website, without the permission of the photographer.

The court confirmed that even though the image was accessible on the internet, it should not be re-published without the consent of the copyright holder. Whilst providing a link to the image is acceptable, a re-publication of the image is not. I suspect that the local authority is now facing a hefty legal bill from Mr. Renockhoff.

As reuse of images via the internet is extremely easy, the law remains unchanged. If you use someone else’s intellectual property, you can only do so with permission and agreement.

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