Recently, here at Stuck in Plastic, we discussed the concern of commercial usage of our photos on platforms such as IG. This sparked a conversation about the artistic licensing of photographs – “Can anyone just use your photographs or content?” And for which target groups is it okay and which target groups is not okay?
Artists with Heart & Soul
As an artist, you are always busy thinking about producing unique images to showcase your creativity. These thoughts often push your imagination to places deep within you. A key point to consider, in order for an artist to create a piece of work, he/she spends valuable time researching his/her subject matter. They purchase extra attributes and invest in specialised programs to assist editing techniques. Some photographers even spend years studying the art of photography. It goes without saying. The production of one photo contains without a doubt, all of our heart and soul!
At the same time, as an artist, you also want to share what you have created. Suggesting that you are extremely proud of the work or you may want to project a certain feeling or a statement, or you might want to highlight social and economical issues connected to everyday life.
You may want to put them on display. For example, you could print your images onto photographic paper or a canvas. Alternatively, you could think about hosting an exhibition. Nowadays, there is a ubiquity to photographs seen on the internet. This sea of images shown on SoMe platforms has become a chosen favourite option for many creatives. Whatever you decide to showcase creative work, to an artist is usually priceless. Then again, the displayed artwork has a very distinctive value.
In this case, what do you do when you see a beautiful photo and you would like to share it with others? Notably, as flattering as it is that someone wants to distribute your photograph. Nowadays, artists often need to get paid for their work. And for some, it is their livelihood.
Therefore, can you just take the image and use it onto your Facebook or Instagram without finding out who initially owns that photo? In fact, were you going to source the original owner first, before thinking of using their photo? And if you see who owns it, do you credit the name of the original maker?
The decent thing to do is gain permission from the original creator. The photographic images hold something known as metadata. This data is placed within the properties of the image. This embedded information helps protect the artist who created the original work. On the other hand, particular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, often recompresses the images without keeping the metadata. This in turn may force the work to become what is known as orphan work.
Orphan works include everything from World War II photographs to anonymous internet postings. This can happen nowadays when you take a screenshot and not provide attribution to the original owner, as it travels along its journey. This is frustrating, especially if you are aware of who created the original work.
If you cannot figure out who owns the copyright, you could conduct a search. If you still can’t figure out the ownership, then you have to decide to take a chance. On the other hand, after finding the artist, the next step would be to give credit to the original Artist/Photographer. And of course, credit is very much appreciated and often seen as a compliment.
What about Commercial usage?
Consequently, what if your photographs are used for commercial purposes? And used without your permission? Yes, perhaps they mention your name. But, has the unauthorised commercial user, changed the intent of your work? And has the person aimed to make money by using your photo? You as an artist get nothing in return?
Commercial Use and Collaboration
“How come LEGO use your photographs? What is important to realise and you will often notice that we review LEGO products on a regular basis. We at Stuck in Plastic, work extremely closely with our good friends at The LEGO Group. We provide them with exclusive creative photographs for their commercial usage on a professional basis. That means we have given written authorisation for our photographs to be used in this commercial context and intern, the LEGO Group share and credit us as the original artist. And we love collaborating with them.
Copyright, Fair Usage and Creative Commons Licence
Confused about what you can and can’t use? Yep it certainly is a lot to take in and there is a minefield of information out there related to this subject. You will also find that different countries around the world, have different usage rights that apply to artists work. You should check out what rules apply if you are thinking of using specific content. In the UK the act is provided under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
As you scroll through the internet and stop by to admire photographic content, you are entering into a whole array of images subjected to copyright laws, this includes Creative Commons licensing, and fair usage policies. Saying this, we love you interacting and enjoying our content. And because we love you interacting, let us briefly explain the different types of licensing usage rules.
What exactly is Copyright? It is a type of intellectual property, that gives its original owner the exclusive right to make copies of the creative work. Copyright protects your work and prevents others from using it without your permission. You will automatically own an All Rights Reserved copyright to that creativity.
The copyright policy also applies in connection to Images purchased from stock photo websites. These images will have a licensing policy attached. When you download a file from a stock agency, you’re usually buying a standard licence that lets you use the file for any personal, business, or commercial purposes that aren’t restricted by the licence.
However, copyright doesn’t prevent you from downloading an image on your own device. What copyright prevents is you from re-sharing it and then claiming that it is your own creation.
Fair Use is the legal right to copy or use a portion or all of a copyrighted work, without having to first acquire permission from the copyright holder. It is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose. It is intended for the purpose of education, reporting, or research.
What about if you want your work to be freely shared, reused, and remixed by others without the hassle of seeking permission?
The Creative Commons copyright licences are distributed under what is known as an open license, such as Creative Commons. You can find images providing Creative Commons licensing under the usage rights section on Google. That being said, these images under this licence are not what many people think of as the public domain. They also have certain conditions attached depending on the licence used.
Notably, this type of licence will enable you to let people know what they can and can’t use your work for. You don’t give up your copyright, you just refine it so it works better for you.
Have your say!
Tell us. What feeling do you have surrounding the use of other peoples photographs or has a breach of copyright happened to you?