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Copyright and photos

An increasing number of churches in other dioceses are finding themselves embroiled in copyright disputes because they have been using images on their website and social media pages without the consent of the copyright holder. Please take note of the advice below to prevent this from happening to you.

Images are an essential part of all communications, and all are encouraged to use them to grab the attention of their audience. We just need to be careful about the images we choose to use. 

There are hundreds of millions of images that are easily accessible on the internet have led to the common misconception that they are free-to-use. Whilst this is true in some cases, the vast majority of images on the internet are not available for others to re-publish, which is why more and more people, companies, and charities, including churches, are finding themselves in legal hot water.

One of the other big misunderstandings about illustrations or photographs is that they are only protected under the laws of copyright if accompanied by a copyright symbol. This is not true - copyright automatically applies to any original illustration or photograph as soon as it is created. The creator of that image is the copyright holder by default and does not have to mark their work with a symbol or register it with any governing body for their copyright to come into existence. All types of visual art are subject to copyright including photos, maps, paintings, sketches etc.

The copyright holder has the right to decide how their image can be used and by whom. If their copyrighted material is published by someone else, without their permission, then they may choose to take legal action and seek financial compensation. In the majority of cases of copyright infringement, action is not taken, sometimes, because the copywriter holder doesn't mind or perhaps doesn't even know that others are using their image. The advancements in search technology, a copyright holder, looking for websites using their image without permission can perform a comprehensive search in a matter of seconds.

How to avoid copyright claims

The best way to avoid any potential copyright claims is to use images that you have created yourself, or where you have the express permission from the copyright holder. 

Several websites provide high-quality images, for free, that you can use on your website and social media posts 'royalty-free' (without paying any fees).  Well-known websites that offer this service are Pexels Pixabay and Unsplash.

You are also welcome to use the many images on our Flickr account.

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