Knowledge of Image Right for PR people


Why I think image right is so important for PR people or journalists?

There are two reasons: the first is because in some instances we will own the image right on our own work; the second is we will often want to quote other people’s words or use other’s images during our work, and we need to know how far the law allows we to do this.

What is Image Rights?

An image right is the right to control the commercial use of a person’s identity and distinctive images, expressions, characteristics or attributes associated with that person (sometimes referred to, as in the USA, as a right of publicity).

Different types of imagery

Q: Can I use royalty-free images for free?

A: No. Royalty-free means that once a license fee is paid, the images may be used many times without paying additional fees, but the initial license is necessary to protect yourself and your clients. When you license a royalty-free image, you can use it in nearly any application, for as long as you like, according to your license agreement (although some kinds of uses do require an extended license). The cost is often based on file size, the number of permitted users as well as other factors.

Q: Surely no-one will be able to find one image in the whole of the internet?

A: New technology now enables copyright owners to identify unlicensed imagery and act to protect their rights. Imagery is ‘fingerprinted’ so that it can be tracked and found in use, even if it has been modified, recreated or if only part of the image has been used. The image is then flagged up to the copyright owner so that they can check if the correct license is held.

Q: I’m using an image I found through a Google Image search. If it’s on the internet, doesn’t that mean it’s free?

A: No. Just because an image is on the internet, it doesn’t mean the image is free to use. You may still need the correct license to use it. There is a difference between an image being online and an image being “in the public domain” (the term given to content that is not owned or controlled by anyone).

Q: I’m just a blogger and my site is non-commercial. Can I use images for free?

A: In most cases, no. Unless your use is specifically permitted by copyright law, all the images on your website must be properly licensed, regardless of the nature of your site. You can, however, license very inexpensive images from many imagery providers that are perfect for web use and will be properly licensed.

Q: Are there any downsides to using free images?

A: The quality of these images can be lower than paid-for images. The better quality free images can also be over-used, and their effectiveness may be diluted the more times you see an image appearing in different places. Suppliers of free images are also unlikely to have inspection processes in place, which in turn can increase the likelihood of a dispute arising.

Q: My boss has asked me to find some images for an internal presentation. Do I still need to pay for them?

A: Yes, in most circumstances. You will still need to pay for the image and license it for commercial use. There are various sources of free images and clip art that you can use, but these images must normally still be accompanied by a license or permission from the copyright holder.

Q: What’s the difference between “personal use” and “commercial use”?

A: Personal use may be commonly defined as use that is not for commercial gain. Examples of personal use (or non-commercial use) might include social newsletters or wedding announcements.  Commercial use may be commonly defined as use that is intended for commercial, promotional, endorsement, advertising or merchandising purposes. Examples of commercial use could include a branded company website, brochure, advert, presentation or product.

Q: Can I take photographs of private property that I intend to use for profit-making commercial gain?

Unless you have gained entry illegally. You may need permission from the property owners if you intend to use the image to endorse a product. Many institutions such as the National Trust, English Heritage, Disneyland and Graceland that allow ticketed access to the public, make it a condition of entry that photographs may be taken, but may not be used for commercial gain of any kind.

By understanding these regimes, as a PR, we should pay more attention during our work. Common sense and knowledge are the best friends. Avoid taking photographs of children without consent, exercise caution and empathy when photographing victims in traumatic situations and be prepared to be questioned if photographing sensitive buildings such as government premises, banks and embassies. Currently, there is a perfect image protection in the UK, this page can clear up some confusion with the essential information, answers to important questions and useful resources. Do you agree? 🙂


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