Copyright and social media

ImageNotAvailableIs it okay to download that photo from the web and use it on my own site? Or in a tweet? This short guide will help you to answer this common question.

However, it is only a guide and if you believe someone is infringing your copyright, or you want to use something that could still be in copyright, you should take professional advice.

What does copyright cover?

Copyright applies to created works. This includes photographs, videos, writing, a piece of music, drawing and painting, sculpture and the like.

One created work may include multiple copyrights. For example, if I paint a picture, I own the copyright of that image. If my wife photographs the picture, she owns the copyright of the photo, but not the copyright of the original painting.

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How do I claim copyright?

The moment you create something, copyright exists. There is no requirement to claim it. So as soon as I take a photograph, I own the copyright of that photo. There is no need to use the copyright symbol ©. That said, using the symbol does remind people that copyright exists, so it's wise to apply it where appropriate.

When does copyright expire?

Copyright rules vary from one country to another. In the UK, copyright generally expires 70 years after the death of the copyright holder. So a photograph taken in 1930 by someone who died in 1950 will be out of copyright in 2020.

Can I use something even if someone else owns the copyright?

Yes, but only with permission or if the copyright owner specifically allows others to use their work without permission. In this case, they may have put conditions on the use, such as it can't be used commercially. In all cases, the copyright holder should be credited.

Where can I get more detailed information?

Copyright rules do vary between countries and this can become a very complex subject.

Useful websites are:

How copyright protects your work from Gov.uk

Copyright notices: digital images, photographs and the internet from Gov.uk

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GuidesAndrew Knowles