Just ASK – Making Photo-Legal Groundwork Add Up


There are few mediums which can universally capture the hearts and minds of people like the perfect photo.  When updating your website, blogging or developing ads for your business, the hunt is always on for the images that say it all.  Just don’t be tempted to turn a blind eye to the origins of those perfect images and the conditions for copying them, in case you find yourself exposed because of a copyright violation.

Your exposure is no less just because you may have relied on someone else to put your website, blog content or ad together and get those little copyright details right. Your business is your business and you have the responsibility to make sure it is not threatened by wasted investment, a senseless tarnishing of its reputation and in some cases, litigation that bleeds your time and your profits. Taking the time to find photo perfection may mean digging around a bit, but in the end the effort will help you and your business stand tall above the rest.

Let’s start from the obvious – the mantra everyone knows – just because a photo can be downloaded from the internet does not mean it is free to use.

Okay, great, so you know that, but what about stock photos?  You may have paid for them, but you still have to read the fine print.  Not all stock photos can be used for any purpose, or come with permission for indefinite usage.  Similarly, accessing images under a Creative Commons license (e.g. through Flickr) is still a license and has terms that have to be respected to stay on the right side of the law. These are issues you have to educate yourself about, either through your own research or by asking the professional who helps you put your ad together.

And what about those photos you commission? Again, there are questions you need to ask to be sure you can put them to the uses you are contemplating to market your business:

  • If there are models in the photos, were model release forms executed?
  • Will you own the copyright in those photos? This is a question to discuss with the photographer in advance.
  • If the photographer won’t assign to you their copyrights in the photos taken for the benefit of your business, do you have a solid agreement (license) that you can rely on to use the photos the way you want to?

When it comes to getting the ‘pics’ you want for your business use, you always have to be prepared to assess your resources, seek the appropriate rights to use them and be prepared to adapt if too many unknowns are left unanswered. While it may feel like only one image can say it all, remember that neither you nor your business is one, or even two dimensional – there is more than one photo waiting to be snapped, or out there, to help capture the brilliance of your enterprise and message.

In summary, your photo-legal groundwork boils down to a simple practice – Just ASK:

Approach, get consent and acknowledge the original source of the images you use.

Substitute with other images, if in doubt about making copies of your first choice ‘pics’.

Know your options because today there are many, and there is really no reason you can’t be efficient finding the imagery you want without jeopardizing the integrity of your enterprise.


Ariadni Athanassiadis is the lead attorney of Kyma Professional Corporation, which provides intellectual property (IP) legal services to help your business develop and benefit from the creative efforts and assets that make it distinctive. Whether it is your brand, product, services, designs, technology or business processes, Ariadni can help design IP legal solutions which let you make the most of what you give to your business.


Ariadni Athanassiadis

Kyma Professional Corporation

T: 613-327-7245

E: ariadni@kymalaw.com

W: www.kymalaw.com

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