Are All Images Online Copyright Protected?

Are all images online copyright protected

It’s easy to misunderstand how copyright applies to images online. For example, many people think that if an image isn’t watermarked, it is fair game to download and use.

However, this is not true. With rare exceptions, every work is automatically copyrighted upon creation. Unless an image is in the public domain, you must get permission or a license to use it.


Copyright protection is automatic when an image is created, but it does not always apply to every image. Some photos are not protected by copyright because they are not artistic works, but the vast majority of images online are protected because they are creative. The image’s creator automatically owns the copyright of any images they create, but the owner has certain rights in the image that they can license to others. These rights include the right to reproduce, display, and make derivative works. The owner also has the right to prohibit others from using their image without permission.

Copyright in an image lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years after their death. The creator may choose to assign their copyright to another person, but only for a fee and on specific terms for a specified period of time. The image’s use must not conflict with any of the copyright owner’s other enforceable rights in the work, such as the moral right to be credited for the work.

Generally, it is considered an infringement of copyright to take someone else’s image and put it on your website without their permission. In most cases, the image creator will be able to sue for damages, which will cover their normal licensing fees and any profits made by the unauthorised user of the photo.

Many photographers and artists will sign their works with the symbol, year, or their name to mark them as theirs. Despite this, some people mistakenly believe that a picture without the symbol, year, or their names is not protected by copyright. This is not true, however, as digital image files have metadata that identifies the image’s copyright owner. Deliberate removal of this information is unlawful.

Using an image monitoring and protection service like Pixsy will ensure that all your images are safe from download, misuse, image theft and unauthorized use. This will help protect you from possible statutory damages in the event of an infringement case against you, and it will also help you find out where and how your images are being used online.


Whether it’s a family photo, a picture taken for a competition or an image from a website or blog, images online are potentially copyright protected. People who post images on websites and social media sites often don’t realise that they have a legal obligation to check that their images are not being copied by others. If they do not have permission to use an image, they could face a hefty fine from the person who holds the copyright in the image.

A person’s copyright in an image takes effect automatically when they create it. However, they can choose to license their work for certain uses or even transfer it to another person. They can also use a trademark to mark their work as their own or prevent others from using it. Generally, copyright lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. This means that any images created within the past 70 years are still covered by copyright laws.

The owner of a copyright can make money from their work by selling or licensing it to other people. They can also choose to assert their moral rights in the image. These are rights that protect the integrity of a work and the artist’s reputation. If someone infringes your moral rights, you can take legal action against them.

To infringe copyright, an image must have been fixed for a period of time in a tangible form (film or digital). It must also be original and have a degree of creativity to be protected. It’s also important to note that it is not necessary to reproduce an image in its entirety – even a small portion of the image can infringe copyright.

When determining whether an image is copyrighted, it’s best to be safe and assume that it is unless it has a (c) symbol, year or name attached to it. It’s also worth noting that copyright protection extends to the metadata of an image, so deliberately removing metadata may be a breach of copyright law. Some companies have entire teams that focus on spotting infringing images and they can take action against anyone who violates their intellectual property rights.

Moral rights

In addition to copyright, image creators have a set of moral rights. These are essentially non-statutory rights that can be enforced in the same way as copyright and cover things like attribution, integrity and privacy. Infringement of these rights is considered a tort, so it can be quite serious.

The right of attribution entitles the creator to be credited for their work. This applies even if the image is used without their permission. It also gives them the right to have their name attached to the work even if it is altered or used for commercial purposes. This right may be violated if someone alters an image in such a way that it misrepresents them or damages their reputation. The right of integrity covers the author’s ability to object to changes in their work that they feel compromise their artistic integrity. This can be a tricky area of copyright as it is subjective and often disputed.

A work must be fixed for some period of time in a tangible form (such as on film or stored digitally) to qualify for copyright protection. It must also be original and show a minimal degree of creativity. It does not need to be registered to receive copyright protection. However, if you are employed as a photographer or other artist, the images produced by you may be owned by your employer rather than yourself, especially if they are created on company time or in a course of business.

You can’t transfer or assign your moral rights to anyone else, but you can ‘waive’ them. This can be done through a contract. For example, if you enter a contract to sell your photographs or other works to a buyer, it may stipulate that you waive your moral rights. This will prevent the purchaser from enforcing your moral rights against them at a later date.

Generally, the use of an image without the owner’s permission is copyright infringement. This is true whether or not there is a copyright symbol, year or name associated with the image. It is also unlawful to remove metadata from an image, which can give details of its copyright ownership. Many museums, libraries and archives have collections of public domain images that can be freely used with few restrictions. You can also find images in the public domain on sites such as Wikimedia Commons.


Many people are under the false impression that any photo on the internet is fair game for grabbing and using as they please. This is not true, and in fact, a copyright infringement can result in fines or even legal action. If you want to use a picture on your website, it’s best to contact the copyright owner to ask for permission first.

The person who creates an image will usually own the copyright, but there are other situations where this may not be the case. For example, if an image was created as part of a work-for-hire agreement, the employer will usually own the copyright. Similarly, the image may be in the public domain if it was created before the copyright expired or was forfeited by the creator.

If you are unsure of the status of an image, it is best to assume that it is protected by copyright law. Infringement can occur if the image is published without the permission of the author, and it may also be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

When determining whether an image is copyrighted, courts consider four factors: the nature of the copyrighted work; the purpose and character of the use; the amount used; and the effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Generally, the more substantial the use is, the more likely it is to be considered an infringement of copyright.

Images are often copyrighted because they are original, creative works that are fixed for some period of time in a tangible medium. The author owns the copyright for the image from the moment it is created, unless it was produced as a work-for-hire and the photographer assigned his or her rights to an agency or employer.

Some photographers offer their images under a Creative Commons license, which allows others to use them as long as they credit the photographer and follow certain parameters. However, the terms of these licenses vary by country. Other images are offered as orphan works, which means that the copyright has expired or is otherwise invalid. This can make it difficult to find the owner and obtain a license for the image.

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