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Keep it legal: How to Avoid Infringing IP Rights when Posting Images Online

13 Apr 2017
Copyright Infringement

You write a blog post, you are ready to publish it and you just need a picture to go with it: nothing is better than a quick google search and voilà, the right image is found. As easy as it is, someone’s IP rights might have been infringed. It is quite common for small and big companies to light-mindedly use copyrighted images on their blog and websites as they are free and easy to source. However, this could end up being ultimately costly if the legitimate IP holder realizes it.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects the creator of an original work – both under the moral and economic aspect. Contrary to common belief, copyright is granted as soon as the work is created, or in our case, as soon as the image is taken. A subsequent registration is not necessary per se, but it is needed in order to prove easily who the copyright holder is and when the image was created.  Images can be registered at the National Directorate for Copyright in Argentina, at the School of Arts of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Copyright infringement, that is, publishing the images without the author’s express consent, is relatively easy to discover on the internet through a reverse image search. The majority of copyright infringement cases online are settled with a cease-and-desist letter. Shall the matter be pursued further, Civil Courts have competence over copyright infringement cases both in Brazil and Argentina. It is important to note that the violation of copyright may infringe both the economic and the moral rights of the author, for instance, because the image has been modified in a way to be detrimental to the reputation of the copyright holder.

Moreover, we must note that in both jurisdictions, copyright infringement is also a crime.

What images can be used legally?

Taking photos personally is clearly the safest way to go. Hiring a professional photographer is another option. In that case, the photographer would be the copyright owner, so it is advisable to draft an agreement establishing the transfer of the economic rights, or simply a license that allows the use and adaptation of the images on your website

As an alternative, there are several online repositories of images that are available to be legally downloaded, used and sometimes modified after the payment of a relatively cheap license. In this case, the owner of the rights simply grants you a non-exclusive license to use and amend the images. However, this means that other users will have the right to use the same photo. Some repositories license good quality images for free.

As third option, you are allowed to use images, which have been released under a Creative Commons license that allows commercial use. Creative Commons images can be freely used and, in some cases, modified (unless it’s a no-deriv license), as long as the original author is credited. The ratio is that the author gives up his economic rights on the image, in return for more exposure – as the image is likely to be shared more often.

Usually, public domains images are the ones for which the economic IP rights are expired – in Brazil, this happens after 70 years from the author’s death. In Argentina, the photographs enter to the public domain after 20 years from the start date of the first publication – Art 34. LAW 11723. Furthermore, in Argentina the public domain is not free. You do not receive authorization from the owner to use the photo but you need to pay the government if you want to use a photo.


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