Journalism Law

Photos at Christmas – How to Spread the Christmas Spirit Properly this Year

Authors Sophia Höttinger, Jonathan Appleby, 2017

Christmas time is fast approaching, and it’s time to start spreading the Christmas spirit by showing all the festive shoppers what you have to offer. Christmas is the perfect time to expand, and grab new customers through emails, newsletters, articles, leaflets, and social media full of festive fun. However, when you go about creating these wonderful wintery products how do you acquire that grabbing image? The simple fact is many still believe any images on Google are free to use. At Copytrack we deal with thousands of cases where the image user had no idea that by using the image they were breaking the law. So here’s Copytrack’s Christmas gift to the world, facts about commercial use, creative commons, copyright law, stock agencies and how to find images online. All these will help you spread the Christmas joy – without getting yourself in trouble.

Copyright law – basics

Copyright law varies all over the world, but one thing always remains true: as soon as a piece of work is created the author of that work gains instant free copyright protection.  Copyright law is there to ensure the author can benefit from their hard work, and to make sure their work belongs to the creator. The right also exists to encourages us to keep on creating.

Commercial use

Before you learn about how to go about getting images correctly you need to know when to know. Generally non-commercial usages are fine. For personal Facebooks, Twitters and what not you can share images without coming knuckle to knuckle with the law- this doesn’t mean that the photographer will be fine with it though. The danger starts when you want to use an image for commercial use to rake in a few extra coins. If you’re going to finically benefit from the commercial use of the photograph, the photographer should too!

What happens when you steal a photo?

If you use an image commercially without acquiring a license you risk throwing yourself into the well-decorated Christmas fireplace. If your image theft is detected you might have to pay damages, this is money the photographer lost because of your unauthorised use. Sometimes photographers have a set fine, however it’s most likely that you would come to a settlement agreement. If you’re forthcoming with your mistake things can stay on the nice side, however, when not, it could get messy involving lawyers and courts.

Just ask

Let’s say you’re cursing Google Images on the hunt for that perfect winter wonderland photo. Bam! There it is – the image of your dreams. Yes, you can download it instantly, but hold the trigger. To do things the proper way, find out who the photographer is, get the contact details and ask them if you can use the image. It might come at cost, but you’re covering your back in the long run. Try and getting it down in writing, and make sure to keep a copy. It’s Christmas, perhaps they are feeling charitable.

Stock agencies

This is the easiest of all your bets. There is a vast amount of stock agencies that have amazing images to hand. You would have to pay for the image, but the quality, and legal security is definitely worth it. Just check the usage rights before buying an image to see how it can be used.

Pictures with Creative Commons

A really good way to safely find and use images are those with Creative Commons. Creative common licenses allow free usages of work. However, pay close attention, the creative commons use can vary depending on the license. Any photos marked with “nc” cannot be used commercially. All under the Creative Commons require attribution to the photographer.

Beware free stock agencies

This is no insult to the many great free stock agencies out there, but you have to be weary when using them, especially for commercial usages. Copytrack has encountered situations where image users have claimed to have found their image on such sites advertised for free commercial use, but that isn’t always true. To stay on the safe side, avoid these sites when looking for picture.

Don’t be that guy

Remember that time you stole from the corner shop just to see if you could do it? Well don’t do it again- it’s Christmas! You might think that it’s easy to get away with image theft due to size of the net, and the billions of users, but technologies like Copytrack’s world-leading image search is forever on the hunt. Plus, you’re not respecting the creator.

Copytrack’s Tip

Now you know how to spread the Christmas spirit! You now and have the responsibility of doing the right thing. But just think of the logic, the photographer worked hard to create the photo, put their heart and soul into the work, they deserved to paid for it – it helps them create more work! Feed the creative industry and respect photographer!

On that note COPYTRACK wishes you a
very Happy Christmas!

Jonathan Appleby, Oranienburger Straße  4, 10178 Berlin, Tel: 00 49 30 809 332 962

About Copytrack:

Copytrack ( was founded in 2015 by Marcus Schmitt and currently employs around 25 people from legal, IT, customer service and finance. The service supports photographers, publishers, image agencies and e-commerce providers. It includes a risk-free search of the global Internet for image and graphics data uploaded by users at Copytrack are found with a hit accuracy of 98 per cent. The customers define if images are used without a license and even determine the amount of subsequent fees supported by an automatic license calculator on the portal. Copytrack is fully responsible for an out-of-court solution in over 140 countries as well as a legal solution in the areas relevant to copyright law. If the image has been successfully licensed, the rights holder receives up to 70 percent of the agreed sum. The pure search function is free of charge.

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