UK Intellectual Property Office copyright guidance on use of images on the web - Commentary by Graham Smith

03 March 2014

Graham Smith

The IPO today released a copyright notice giving guidance to small businesses and individuals who may wish to use digital or photographic images on the web. It also provides advice for people who may find their own images being used online. Graham Smith, a partner at leading law firm Bird & Bird, comments:

"Today's Copyright Notice from the IPO will perform a useful service if it helps dispel some of the most basic misunderstandings that persist about using photographs from the internet. Many people still think that if a photograph is on a social media site they are free to use it.  The Copyright Notice reinforces that this is a dangerous and potentially costly myth.

For instance:

- In one case a company thought they were free to use a photo in a promotional campaign for a night club because it was posted on Tumblr.  The photographer sued for copyright infringement and was awarded over £5,000 damages.

- Even if the social media site's licence terms, such as Creative Commons, allow some uses, that will not help you if the photo was posted to the site without the copyright owner's permission.  You can still infringe, even if you didn't know that the copyright owner had not given permission.

Using photographs from the internet and social media sites is a minefield. The IPO's Copyright Notice should help small businesses and individuals avoid the most obvious mistakes."

[The case referred to above is Sheldon v Daybrook House Promotions Ltd [2013] EWPCC 26, here (Bailii).
UK IPO press release:]