Copyright FAQ


Copyright is often a confusing subject but it is necessary to understand to avoid legal troubles and respect content creators' rights when using media online. Below are some common questions/answers to copyright related issues regarding photography. A more in depth summary of copyright can be found here: Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office - Copyright Quick Guide


Q: What is copyright?
A: Copyright gives content creators the exclusive legal right to create copies, control distribution/use, and profit from their original works. The legal intention of copyright is to drive the creation of new content by allowing the author to be fairly compensated for their work.


Q: Why is copyright important?
A: Copyright laws encourage creativity and progress by rewarding content producers for works which are beneficial to the public.


Q: When is copyright created?
A: Copyright is created the instant the work (photo, illustration, article, etc.) is created. Notice of a work being copyrighted and/or registering the work are not necessary for copyright protections to apply.


Q: Who owns the copyright to an image?
A: The person who created the content owns the copyright. With photography, this is the person who pressed the shutter button on the camera. Subjects within a photo do not have a legal claim to the copyright of the photograph.


Q: How does copyright infringement affect content creators?
A: Infringing on an owners copyright is both a moral and financial issue. Using a work without permission violates the author's right to control how the work is used and displayed, results in a direct loss of income, and tracking down and addressing violations wastes time and resources which incurs an additional financial loss.


Q: Can I use an image I found on the web if it doesn't have a copyright notice displayed?
A: As a general rule, if you did not take the photo yourself, assume it is copyrighted and would require permission from the creator to use it.


Image/gallery sharing options.Share ButtonLocation of the share button.

Q: Is it OK to screen capture an image to use on my social media page, blog, or website from your galleries?
A: No, we do not condone screen capturing, by any means, of images hosted at this site or anywhere else we may post them. You can however use the sharing options built into this website (e.g. the share button in the upper right corner) to share galleries or individual images. Taking a screenshot significantly degrades the quality of the image, does not give us credit or allow others to find our work, and is a violation of our legal rights to control when and where our images are displayed. We regularly send takedown notices when we find instances of our images posted using the screen capture trick so please save us, and yourself, the trouble and use the share button instead. Many social networking sites and ISPs have very strict policies about posting content you did not create or do not have permission to use and may suspend/delete an account if such content is found.


Q: Why are there watermarks on the photos?
A: Watermarks are a last ditch effort to prevent orphaned content and make sure we receive credit for the work. We use tasteful watermarks at the edges of an image to minimize distraction. Our images may also contain watermarks only visible to machine systems which can be used to identify and track unauthorized uses if the visible watermark is removed.


Q: Can I remove the watermark from a photo?
A: If you would like a watermark free image you must purchase a license to use the photo through our online ordering system. Removal, modification, or defacement of a watermark may be classified as "willful copyright infringement" under US copyright law and carries much harsher penalties.


Q: Do I own the copyright once I purchase an image?
A: When you buy an image through this website, you are purchasing a license which gives you certain rights to use the image. We still retain the copyright of the original image and all legal rights this implies.


Q: Once I license an image can I do anything I want with it?
A: Some restrictions still apply to licensed images. Be sure to read the license agreement provided during the checkout process to learn about all the rights granted to you. Using an image for commercial purposes or distributing/giving permission to use the image to third parties as a standalone file is not allowed with the Royalty Free Personal Use license.


Q: I am acting as an agent for a non-profit, for-profit, or government organization. Can I share images which would financially benefit the organization I represent?
A: No, not without a licensing agreement. If you would like to use an image for commercial purposes, please contact us to negotiate a license.