6th October 2021

Do you own the right to use your own image?

By Matthew Pryke

It seems like a simple question with an obvious answer but as a number of high profile US court cases involving well-known celebrities have recently highlighted, it isn’t.

The likes of Dua Lipa, Victoria Beckham and Justin Bieber have hit the headlines after posting pictures of themselves on social media and being sued by the photographer who originally took the image. This is not an area reserved for celebrities. Rather it is relevant to both individuals and business alike as the use of visual imagery to promote businesses and individuals continues to gather momentum.

Below are some of the key considerations to ensure you avoid restrictions being placed on the use of your images.

Generally speaking, the person who takes a photograph automatically owns the copyright to that image. You don’t have to apply or pay a fee as there isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK.

Copyright provides the author, in this scenario the photographer, with the ability to stop others from using it without their express permission.

So, before using a photo to post on social media, use as your LinkedIn profile picture or in a marketing campaign or on a web page, use our quick checklist to avoid opening yourself up to liability for copyright infringement.

Who do I contact if I want to use an image of myself which someone else has taken?

We always advise prevention is better than cure so contacting the copyright owner to seek their permission prior to using the image can prevent these infringement claims from arising.

A copyright notice often contains the ‘©’ symbol or the word ‘copyright,’ with a date and name of the copyright owner. It serves as a reminder that the relevant work is protected and not in the “public domain” for anyone to use without permission. But be careful, if there isn’t a copyright notice this doesn’t mean it is free to use and you should try to investigate who owns the image.

Put it in writing and make sure you secure the necessary rights you require

You have two options to either:

  1. seek an assignment of all intellectual property rights in the image which means the photographer will transfer all rights of ownership to you and none will be owned by the photographer; or
  2. enter into a licence agreement which is a legal agreement setting out the key terms of use in connection with the relevant copyright work or image (s).

If you enter into a licence agreement, rather than an assignment, it is important you agree key points such as usage rights (i.e. where the image can be used), territory (i.e. worldwide or within the UK only) and term (i.e. for a limited period or in perpetuity) of such use so everyone is clear on how/where/when the image can be used.

Copyright law can often be complex so seeking legal advice before making use of an image is often the best way to go.

Hamlins’ Intellectual Property team has expertise in all aspects of copyright law including:

  • Advising on copyright infringement claims
  • Drafting and negotiating copyright licence agreements
  • Defending copyright infringement claims

If you have any questions or concerns regarding any copyright or intellectual property issues, please contact Matthew Pryke in the Intellectual Property team at Hamlins who will be happy to provide the help and advice you need.


Do you own the right to use your own image?

Have a question? Contact Matthew

Have a question? Contact Matthew


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