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Copyright FAQs

On what basis am I able to sell my images as stock? Ltd offers a variety of licence types:

Royalty Free (RF) Licence

The user may use the image without further payment for any lawful purpose for an indefinite period. Use includes reproduction, making the image available on the Internet and any other commercial or non-commercial use worldwide.

Rights Managed (RM)

This is where a licence is granted for a specified purpose, territory and duration as specified on our invoice to you.

Editorial Only

The user may only use the image for editorial purposes (as outlined in the legal license).

Model Releases - Getting Consent to Photograph People and Use their Image

Various laws may give a person rights to control the use of their image. In the UK these laws are relatively limited and include:

Where the photograph is to be used abroad other countries will have different and possibly more stringent laws (e.g. France).

To try to limit the risk of legal action it is commonplace for those photographing identifiable individuals to obtain a signed "model release" from the person concerned. This ensures the image can be lawfully used.

This may not be practicable in all circumstances (e.g. a crowd scene) but where possible, it should be made clear to those being photographed as part of a crowd scene or other group (i.e. where model releases cannot in practice be obtained) that those to be photographed have the option not to be included and that the photograph is for a specified purpose. A note should be made of this at the time.

Note: Some Issues regarding Photographing Children

There are specific rules relating to child models (e.g. Children (Performances) Regulations 1968): a child (i.e. a person under 16) cannot work as a paid model except under licence from the relevant local authority.

In any event when taking a photograph of as child it is always sensible to get the consent of the adult responsible for the child (typically a parent).

Note also that it is a criminal offence in the UK to among other things take, distribute, or show indecent photographs of children (the Protection of Children Act, 1978). In practice this is likely to include pictures of naked children.

Use of Events and Wedding Images

When photographing an event it is sensible to get the permission of the organisers of the event (and also see the comments above about group/crowd scenes) - this ought to help avoid a future argument about whether the event was "private" or that photography was restricted for some other reason (e.g. because of the terms of entry/access).

Specific rules apply to weddings, and also to other events where commissioned photographs are taken for "private and domestic purposes" (e.g. at a private party) (see section 85 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). In such a case the person(s) commissioning the photograph (e.g. bride and groom) are entitled to restrict the issue of copies of the photograph to the public, the exhibition of the photograph in public, or the use of the photograph on the Internet. So consent is needed to exploit these sorts of photographs.

Taking Photographs of Buildings and Works of Art

Works of architecture, paintings, sculptures, collages, engravings, and other artistic works potentially all qualify for copyright protection. This means that taking a photograph of such a work potentially infringes copyright in the work. UK law (section 62 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) recognizes that this is potentially a minefield so whilst the law is not fully clear here it is usually accepted that consent from the copyright owner is not required to photograph:

Also, whilst taking a photograph of e.g. a painting (which is itself in copyright) requires the consent of the copyright owner, there is a defence where the inclusion of the artistic work is "incidental".

It should be noted that in some countries (e.g. France) the building owner may have clear rights to prevent the commercial exploitation of photographs of their building taken without their consent.

Property release forms

Having said this, it is generally regarded as advisable to get a property release form from the building owner where the use of the image is for commercial purposes (e.g. advertising) or for editorial purposes (see above).

Images of Logos, emblems and shop fronts

Note that such logos etc may be "artistic works" and/or possibly be protected by trade mark or passing off rights and the discussion above and the desirability of obtaining property release forms in certain circumstances also applies.

Further reading

Christina Michalos, The Law of Photography and Digital Images, Sweet & Maxwell 2004

Simon Stokes, Art and Copyright, Hart Publishing 2003; Digital Copyright, Hart Publishing 2005 (

1 Note: these are general statements of the law by way of general guidance based on UK law unless otherwise noted. They do not constitute legal advice. Ltd is not liable for any use to which this guidance is put or any reliance placed on it. Appropriate, up to date professional legal advice should always be sought. These FAQS are copyright © Ltd 2006. All rights reserved.

Simon Stokes is a Senior Partner at the London Based Law Firm Tarlo Lyons and is one of the leading authorities on copyright law in the UK.

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