I recently came across the case of Absolute Lofts South West London Limited v Artisan Home Improvements Limited and it reminded me how important it is for businesses to ensure that they have the right to use photographs and images on their website and in marketing materials. There is an increasing public perception that anything found on the Internet is free to download and use. However, this misconception could lead to a claim for damages from a copyright owner.
Absolute Lofts and Artisan Home Improvements were both in the business of residential loft conversion. On completion of a job, Absolute Lofts would take pictures to display on its website as examples of its work. However, Artisan copied the pictures and used them on its website without the consent of Absolute Lofts. Under UK copyright law, the general rule is that the person who creates the work is the copyright owner. There is no need to register the image, use a © logo on the work or complete any forms as copyright (and the related protections) comes into existence automatically. Given that the photographs were owned by Absolute Lofts then Artisan was in breach of Absolute’s copyright as it had used the images without consent and was required to pay damages of £6,300.
Any business downloading images for use on its website or in marketing materials needs to be extremely careful. Online content is protected by copyright law and any third party that wants to use images or photographs needs to seek the consent of the copyright owner. There are, however, several online organisations such as Creative Commons which allow images to be downloaded for free. However, you should always check the wording of the specific licence to ensure that it is broad enough to cover your intended use and that you take all actions as required (i.e. crediting the copyright owner).