Copyright – I can use this photograph (Can’t I?)

Wednesday, Feb 11, 2015 at 22:10

Baz - The Landy

Story: Baz - The Landy

These days you can Google almost any topic and if you click “images” there is likely to be thousands of photographic images covering that topic. Try Googling the “Australian Outback” and you’ll see what I mean.

Hey, you’ll see dozens of Outback photographs from if you do!
But where do all these images come from and can you use them?

These days almost anything you post publically on the world-wide-web (www) will be picked up by web-crawlers and find its way to Google. The photographs are there for all to see and when you run a mouse over them will indicate the website they have come from.

So given they are on the web are they free to use?

The short answer is no!

I often hear the comment that it is a compliment that someone uses your work.

Or, it is only a photograph so how does it affect anyone? The issue is the material belongs to someone – the fact it can be downloaded in the comfort of your home, seemingly without anyone knowing doesn’t make it okay and could prove costly in some cases.

In Australia, copyright over photographic images is automatic, there is no need to do anything and it resides with the owner of the photographic image once the photograph has been created. So even if the photograph is not noted as being copyright protected, it still is.

If you want to use it you must first seek the owner’s permission. And there are good reasons for doing this.

Importantly, it does not belong to you and this alone should be reason enough to ask permission prior to using it. In many cases the owner may want to exercise control over how, when, and where the image is used, potentially for a fee, if at all.

In some instances, people have quite innocently used an image taken from Google in a blog or story they have written only to find themselves subsequently embroiled in a copyright dispute. Usually it ends up with some form of compensation being paid, along with legal fees.

And what if you are the owner of the image that has had copyright infringed?

Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to exercise your copyright protection. The best step forward if you want to exercise your rights is to send a notice of infringement to the offending party to assert your ownership and what your requirements are to have it remedied.

This is an example of a copyright infringement letter that can be found on the Arts Law Centre of Australia website.

The request may be as simple as having the image removed, or perhaps its ongoing use permitted in return for an acknowledgement, a fee, or both. My experience has been that most people respond positively and I suspect this is due to the fact that people are simply not aware of the issue.

What if the image appears on a “hosted” website, like ExplorOz, Flickr, Photobucket, or the like?

Most organisations have dispute resolutions in place and you are best to contact them directly with your notice of infringement.

The Australian Copyright Council has some very good information available on its website and following is a specific reference to
Photographers & Copyright. Take the time to read as it provides some very good information on the topic.

Importantly, before using a photographic image, ensure you have asked for the owner’s permission.

Think of it like travelling in the Outback and coming across a “Do not Trespass” sign. Possibly no-one will know that you ignored it, but that does not make it okay if you proceed without permission!

As a footnote, I do not look to profit from the use of my photographic images, but when approached by people wanting to use them for commercial purposes I ask a donation be made to the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Some of them have appeared on the cover of Books and on Australian Government websites, but for the most part, they appear on my website or in coffee table books expertly produced by Mrs Landy!

Just in case you were wondering “Baz – The Landy” came about as a consequence of owning three Land Rover Defenders, but as you can see this has now changed...

And yes, thank you, I've recovered fully from the experience!

But “Baz – The Landy” reference has stuck...!

Cheers, Baz – The Landy, Outback Australia…
“Those who don’t think
it can be done shouldn’t
bother the person doing it…”
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