What Are the Laws on Using Online Photos for Personal Websites?


Quick Answer

Photographs are under copyright protection, and people cannot copy them without the copyright owners' permission, reports the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright protection begins when the photographer creates the photo and is binding whether or not the owner registers the work. Some sources of photographs post terms and conditions under which they allow people to copy them, but when in doubt, those who want to post photos on their websites should obtain written permission from the copyright holders, cautions Nolo.

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Full Answer

Reproducing photos without permission is copyright infringement, and copyright owners can sue those who copy their works for violation of copyright law, explains the U.S. Copyright Office. The copyright owner of a photograph is usually the photographer or the photographer's employer unless the owner transfers the copyright in writing to someone else. Those interested in using photos for their websites must assume that they are copyright protected, according to Nolo. Posting a photograph online does not make it free to use, and crediting the copyright owner does not constitute permission.

Although oral permission may suffice when using photos from relatives or friends, it is still best for the person posting the photo to get written permission in case a disagreement arises, explains Nolo. Some copyright owners may require licensing fees for the use of the photos, and the fees may depend on the amount of traffic the website gets. When website owners receive complaints concerning use of photos, they should immediately remove the photos from their sites until they legally verify their claim to the use.

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