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Photos and their rights

by RentSF

While searching on the Internet, you will find very many photos and you will certainly feel the desire to exploit some of them on your site.

But what exactly are the conditions for using these images? Is the term “royalty-free” sufficient for commercial use or not? This is what we will see in this article


Rule n ° 1: you can (almost) never commercially use an image found on the Internet

This must be your first instinct! Most of the images you find while surfing the Internet cannot be reused freely, you will violate the copyright (of the photographer and the owner of the website where you find it) but also the image rights of people. which may appear therein.

This is also valid for photos of products that you can sell on your site: whether they come from a competitor’s site OR from the manufacturer/supplier’s site. 

But what are you really risking? Damages of up to several thousand euros.

What you should know about the right to use images

Where can I find pictures?

You will find images on four main sources: the Internet, social networks, a photographer, image banks.

Before using an image found on the Internet, you must:

  • find the initial source (the author of the image),
  • check that you have all the authorizations (from the photographer, models …) to use it for commercial purposes
  • indicate the appropriate credits on each medium on which you will use the photo

To use a photo from social networks or taken by a photographer, you must have written permission from the author but also have the consent of the people and goods present in the image. Here too, you must specify the appropriate credits on all media.

Photographs purchased from image banks provide you with all the necessary authorizations but do not exempt you from mentioning the photo credits.

What is a photo credit?

The photo credit guarantees respect for the intellectual property law of the author of the work (the photographer). The author’s name must therefore be mentioned for any use, reproduction, or marketing of the image he produced, whether on the Internet or on paper media. 

The two types of images

In photography, we distinguish the creative photo from the editorial photo.

The creative photo was imagined from scratch by the photographer (choice of model, staging, lighting …). It requires many prior authorizations to be used (model, agency, photographer …).

Editorial photography is taken from life, without prior preparation. It only asks permission from the photographer for its use.

The different user licenses

We speak of a royalty-free image for a photo that is not for exclusive use (this photo can be used by several people) and without a time limit. However, a royalty-free image is not necessarily free.

An image under a managed rights license is transferred for specific use (medium, geographic area, duration of use, sector of activity, etc.) which determines its price.

What are the types of use of photos?

We distinguish the use of images for non-promotional purposes (newspaper, books, information site) from commercial use to sell a product or service. The rights of use are not the same according to its two uses.

In the context of editorial use, the image rights of people taken in a photo in the public domain are more flexible, the people in the photo cannot oppose publication in the press.

For commercial use, this is not the case and you must obtain the written consent of each person before you can use the photo.

Please note that photos of private property (exterior but especially interior) cannot be used without prior consent from the owners.

As you will have understood, using a photo in the context of commercial operations both on the Internet and on your paper communication requires certain precautions and it is unthinkable to use an image found on Google Images without further research.


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