Can I use an image I purchased by copying it to Facebook??

September 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Okay, here is a story-- a customer, Bill, comes to a photographer and "buys" a photo.   Bill displays the photo which is admired by Bill's friend, Sue.  Bill emails the photo to Sue and Sue uses the photo in a video for her business.  

After a few days, Sue gets a letter from the photographer-- who she never met-- informing her to remove his photo from her video and also pay a bill for $1000 for unauthorized use of the photographer's image.  The image was sold to Bill for his personal use, not publication.  Sue hires an attorney who contacts the photographer--who owns the registered copyright images.  The attorney bills Sue for his time and recommends she pay the fine and remove the image in question.

So, does Sue have to remove the image from the video...yes.  Does Sue also have to pay the $1000 fine...yes.  Does Sue have to find another image with usage rights to use in her video...we assume.  Oh one more thing-- the photographer will not sell the usage rights to Sue because he does not agree with her business image and the right to copy and publish the photo belongs to the photographer.

You might say this is a fake story; but the only thing I made up was the names of Bill and Sue.   In today's digital world it is very easy to copy.  We do this all the time to repair or make copies of old photos.  However, we have to have permission to copy from the photographer not the photo owner.  The law is very clear that the right to copy an image belongs to the original maker/photographer.  That right is also enforceable 70 years after the photographer's death.  The right is passed on the next of kin!

Now most photographers are in business to create art and put bread on their table.  So if you want to copy an image into a business video, ad campaign, brochure, bill board, Face Book, or just copy a photo with your cell phone, ask the photographer for permission.  You will probably get an 'Okay' and when you do, ask for the usage letter.  If it is for personal use or social media, the photographer will probably be eager for you to copy and share and--it's good advertising.  (He might even give you a web size file of your image that will look better than your copy!)  If you are using it for business--commercial reasons--you might pay a few bucks for the usage license.  This is standard practice and magazine photographers have been doing this for years. 

I know what you are thinking, "We live in a small town...not a big deal...no one will notice."  This story you just read has happened twice in Culpeper in the last 2 years.  These are horror stories told to me by regular shocked people.   And those two are one's I know about personally.   Be careful when you copy and share on the internet.  The search engines that find your images share them with everyone.


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