Copyright Images - Article I wrote for MyPE News

18 June 2014 | | Comments: 0

In 2011, I was approached to write an article on the copyright of images.  Firstly, I am no writer and secondly, this topic is very important to me because many people are ignorant when it comes to downloading content off the internet.  

When writing the article, I wrote it in laymens terms so anyone can understand without getting confused.

"The internet has existed for many years and there is a certain degree of ignorance when it comes to downloading anything from the internet, whether it be photography, text, videos, etc.

I am going to try and keep this as layman friendly as possible so all readers of this article will understand without any confusion where they stand with regards to downloading from the internet and, more specifically with photographs, although the fundamental rules apply to any internet content. I will also link to a free tool that will help you as a photographer to find any of your images that may have been used without permission on the internet.

What is copyright?
I could quote you the full Wikipedia definition, but I won’t do that as the explanation is far too involved and very few people will understand, so I will keep the definition as simple as possible.

Copyright is a law that was put in place in order to give ownership over the things you create, e.g. Photographs, art, images, novels, etc.

What this means is that you, as the owner have the right to distribute copies, display the work publicly, reproduce your work, and so on. As the owner, these are your rights and nobody is authorised to use your work in any way or form without your permission. This is applicable even with attribution. Permission should always be requested and given in writing.

The creator of the work is automatically granted full copyright of their work and therefore does not have to register or explicitly state that they have copyright. So, even if you see a photograph and there is no copyright notice visible, you should automatically assume that it is under copyright.

Can I download photographs from the internet without seeking permission?
The answer is very clear; NO!

What do I have to do before I can download a photograph from the internet?
The safest and legal way of doing this, is to approach the owner of the photograph and request their permission. On the whole, photographers will give the go-ahead with certain conditions and those, if accepted, have to be adhered to.

When requesting permission to use a photograph that includes the face of a human, a model release form needs to be issued as well. This is a form that the person in the photograph needs to sign as confirmation that a photograph of them may be used.

What will happen if I downloaded a photograph from the internet, and use it on my website or anywhere else?
You are infringing the copyright law and the owner of the work you are using, can institute legal proceedings against you. On the whole, photographers are friendly people and they will first request you to remove the applicable photograph within a certain time period and if this is not adhered to, then legal proceedings may commence.

Stay on the right side of the law and respect the copyright work of others. At the very least a photographer’s web site should carry a copyright notice in the footer of each page as follows; “© Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography :

As a professional freelance photographer and someone who spends many hours surfing the net and uploading photographs to reputable websites such as Flickr, Facebook, own website, OutdoorPhoto, Google+, and Wiki Commons, I decided to spend some time and see if one of my most popular photographs was being used illegally on the internet – especially since it came in 15th place out of 700+ Picture of the Year photos on Wiki Commons.

Needless to say, I was shocked at the amount of photography theft, because that is what it is.

If you are a Google Chrome user, Google has introduced a free plugin/extension that you can download and install.

Where can I find this plugin?
Google Chrome Plugin

How does this plugin work?
Right click on one of your images that you have uploaded on the internet On the drop down menu, click on “Search Google with this image” and a new tab will open with all the images that are the same or similar

What do I do if my images show up as being used on other sites?
If there are images that are yours, then click on the photo and go to the website where the photo appears.
Look for contact details on the website and send an email to the owner.

On the whole, website owners are reasonably cooperative and will react to the wording of the email you will send them.

Here is an example of an email I sent out to most of the websites that had used my photos in contravention of copyright. I changed the links where necessary and omitted the Attribution-Share Alike License if the photo was not licensed:

Dear Website Owner,

I notice that you have posted a copyright photo  on your site, that does not belong to you and similarly have no permission to use it. The copyright of the photo belongs to Leoa’s Photography. The photo in question appears on your website:

The photo is being used in violation of the copyright law. Please ensure that you remove the photo with immediate effect or comply with the Creative Commons License it is licensed under.

© Rute Martins of Leoa’s Photography :

Proof of the original photo can be found here:

Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

You are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

Kind regards

Rute Martins

It is advisable that you watermark your images prior to uploading on the internet. There will be instances when you cannot watermark your images for use on e.g. Wiki Commons, but I strongly suggest that you use watermarks where possible.

Happy snapping and safe uploading !!

Rute Martins

Rute Martins is a freelance photographer, based in Jeffreys Bay, who loves to travel throughout beautiful South Africa and being at one with nature when not photographing weddings, social, corporate events, etc.

Visit Rute’s Flicker Photo Stream | Contact Rute here.

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