What Are the Copyright Laws for Images?

By Holly Cameron

Digital cameras and social networking sites have led to an increase in the volume of images across the media. Anyone who uploads images to a website, or who downloads or copies images created by others, should be aware of the importance of copyright. Copyright laws protect the creators of original works from unauthorized reproduction or copying and penalize those who fail to respect others’ copyrights. Chapter 17 of the United States Code contains the Copyright Act and the relevant laws.

Digital cameras and social networking sites have led to an increase in the volume of images across the media. Anyone who uploads images to a website, or who downloads or copies images created by others, should be aware of the importance of copyright. Copyright laws protect the creators of original works from unauthorized reproduction or copying and penalize those who fail to respect others’ copyrights. Chapter 17 of the United States Code contains the Copyright Act and the relevant laws.

Ownership of an Image

According to Section 102 of the Copyright Act, copyright protection exists in original works, including pictorial, graphic and sculptural works. The creator of an image, therefore, owns the copyright for that image. The copyright owner has an exclusive right to sell, copy, distribute or reproduce that image; anyone else who does so without his permission is in breach of copyright laws. Remember that just because an image has been uploaded to the Internet, does not mean it is necessarily free to use. The photographer has copyright protection as soon as he captures the image in a tangible form, and he does not need to register the image or attach a copyright symbol to enforce his rights.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Licensing

The owner of the copyright for an image may license its use, for example, by allowing another person to insert the image in a publication or post it on the Internet. The owner may restrict the license to a single use or may allow unlimited use, depending on the terms of the agreement. If you want to use an image that you find on the Internet, for example, on a blog or publication, you should check with the creator or owner whether you need to purchase a license.

Fair Use

Copyright law allows the use of certain images without a license if the use is deemed to be fair. Fair use includes educational purposes, news, criticism and comment. According to Section 110 of the Copyright Act, a teacher or lecturer at a non-profit-making educational establishment may copy and use images as part of a face-to-face teaching activity.

Length of Copyright

Images created after 1978 have copyright protection for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years. After that time, the images enter the public domain and anyone may copy or reproduce them without fear of breaching copyright laws.

Work for Hire

The creator of an image generally owns the copyright, except where he has created the image as part of his employment or as a commission. According to Section 201 of the Copyright Act, in these circumstances either the employer or the person who commissioned the image is the owner of the copyright unless otherwise stated in an agreement. In that case you would have to get permission from the actual copyright owner, and not the photographer, to use that photo.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Comic Copyright Laws

References

Related articles

Is Copyright Violation a Crime?

The term, copyright refers to rights of ownership afforded to the authors of original works and the protection of those rights. A “work” is defined as intellectual property that is published or unpublished, including musical, artistic, literary and dramatic works. In short, it means that only the person who created the work has a legal right to distribute it in any form to make a profit. Willful copyright violation, or copyright infringement, is the act of violating any of a copyright owner's exclusive rights; it is a crime.

Are Advertising Brochures Copyrighted?

Copyrights provide legal protection for people who create original works involving design and imagination, like writing, graphics and art images. Copyright protection starts as soon as a creative idea is put into tangible form, such as a sketch or words in a notebook or in a digital file. Federal copyright law defines the rights of copyright holders, including people who create text, image and layout design elements for advertising brochures.

Can We Copy & Paste Copyrighted Things?

The owner of a copyright has certain rights that are protected by civil and criminal law. For the owner to civilly enforce those rights in federal court, the copyright must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before the suit is brought. Criminal copyright infringement is prosecuted by the government while a civil suit is brought by the copyright owner.

Related articles

How to Know if Internet Images Are Copyrighted

Potentially all internet images qualify for copyright protection. The instant the image is created in a digital form, ...

Video Copyright Laws

Copyright laws prohibit unauthorized copying or reproduction of original audiovisual works. In today’s digital ...

Forms of Copyright Infringement

The federal copyright laws protect the creators of original literary and other artistic works. If you register a ...

Photo Copyright Agreement

Photo copyright agreements set out the terms for using or distributing photographs. Copyright laws in the United States ...

Browse by category