A few days ago, during a training session on intellectual property, one of the people in the audience raised his hand and asked me, “So can’t I use pictures on my website that I find on the internet?  Not even those that don’t indicate anything about license conditions! … But if I can access them freely, then can’t I assume that I can use them?” … he added.
As you can imagine, my answer was blunt: No!

The Use Of Photographs: Rights Involved, intellectual property, snabogados

You have to be clear about one thing: the fact that we can access different content through the Internet does not necessarily mean that these files are not protected. Therefore, the basic rule is that in principle unless specifically indicated otherwise, the photographs you find on the net all have intellectual property rights reserved. That means that only the owner can decide what to do with them and do it and we cannot do anything with them, other than look at them.

Consequently, on one hand, we find that in principle we cannot use these photographs because they are copyrighted, and therefore, if we were to use them we would be infringing on these rights. Responding to the question I was asked that day. “No, we cannot put these photographs on our website because we would be infringing the intellectual property rights of the owner“.
But, we also have to bear in mind that in some cases we could be further infringing other rights.

Let’s imagine that in the photograph in question a person (or several) appear/s and that they are recognizable. In this situation we come up against the image rights of the person/s photographed. Sometimes, the person photographed will have authorized whoever took the picture, but sometimes it may not have been the case, and even assuming authorization, it may be limited to certain uses. So, returning to the example of the initial question, by using that picture on our website, we could also be infringing the image rights of the person in the photograph.
And if there are not enough rights involved now, it should also be noted that a person’s image is personal data, and as such, is subjected to strict regulation regarding the protection of personal data, so that in the end, by using this happy picture, without proper authorization, we could also be in breach of data protection legislation.

In conclusion, what can sometimes seem like just the simple use of a photograph can lead to significant legal claims if you do not have the necessary authorizations from the owners of the rights. So next time, before you put a photograph on your website that you found on the internet, think again.

Mònica López