Image rights on the internet

External images are often used on our own homepage. But what should be considered when using third-party images with regard to image rights? How do I protect myself? We have put together 8 steps for you on how to legally secure your website.

1. What is protected?

When people talk about copyright on the Internet, it is almost always about:

Pictures and photos, videos, texts or songs

There are some differences in detail, but they are not that important for you. The following points are more important:

  • Photos, texts and videos are almost always protected by copyright.
  • If you want to use third-party content, you must conclude a license agreement with the photographer or copywriter (author) or the rights exploiter.
  • If you simply use pictures and texts, you are threatened with expensive warnings.
  • You can easily use images and text that you have created yourself.

2. Licenses and Use Rights

If you want to use someone else's pictures or videos, you have to
1. with the author (photographer or copywriter) or
2. conclude a usage contract with rights exploiters (agencies, image platforms).

image platforms

You have the rights to use the images granted by the authors. These rights of use are then transferred to the website operator.

Different license types

There are different types of licenses for different areas and purposes:

  • Single or Exclusive License.
  • Limited in time, for example for the duration of membership in a photo platform.
  • Limited to one medium (websites, print catalogues, social media, etc.).
  • Licenses with or without the right to edit the images.
  • Licenses for personal, editorial or commercial use.

3. The right to one's own image

Be careful with pictures in which strangers can be recognized. The "right to one's own image" means:
Nobody has to put up with becoming the star of your website or your advertising without being asked.
You almost always have to check with the person you want to photograph.

Exceptions to the right to your own picture:

  • The person pictured has been paid for it. This is the case with almost all commercial stock photos.
  • The people are only "accessory" or not individually recognizable. Example: photo off
    greater distance with 100 tourists in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
  • It is a famous "person of contemporary history". But be careful: Of course you can't just make Joachim Löw the face of your advertising campaign.

4. The freedom of panorama

Publicly visible

Freedom of panorama means: What can be seen “outside” from public streets and squares can also be photographed and published. This applies above all to buildings and structures.

private property

Anything that can only be seen from private property requires the owner's permission.

Inside museums and buildings

The freedom of panorama does not apply inside buildings. Here the owner regulates what is allowed and what is not. There are either house rules where these questions are regulated. Otherwise you have to ask the owner or owner if you want to publish pictures.

5. Image platforms

There are countless sites and platforms on the Internet where images are offered. Some of these are free of charge, but most of the time they cost money.
There are three warning traps here:

  1. If images can be used free of charge, this does not mean that there are no copyrights to the images. Even with free images, the author must be named.
  2. Free use is often limited to private or journalistic purposes. You may not use such images in online shops or for your advertising purposes.
  3. You should clarify beforehand whether you have all the rights of use that you also need: Web designers need the right to edit the image, for example. But that is not included in many standard licenses.

6. Pinterest, Flickr & Co

On sites like Flickr or Pinterest you will often find images that are labeled with the "Creative Commons license". The CC license is a standard license that allows images to be released by the creator for free use, subject to certain conditions.
With the Creative Commons license, a simple right of use is usually transferred to you. Others also have the opportunity to use the same image under the same conditions.

There are different license models. You should read the license agreements carefully beforehand.

The following conditions are often included in the CC licenses:
  • You must give the author's name and link.
  • You may not make any edits to the image.
  • The respective license must be named and linked by you.
  • You may only use the image on non-commercial sites.

7. Use of Company Logos

Attention: the logos of Facebook, YouTube & Co. are protected by copyright and trademark law.
It is of course very useful for a company if its logos are used and disseminated. However, the companies specify how their logos may be used.
Here we give you an overview of where you can find the requirements for using some well-known logos:

8. Attribution of Author

If you don't name the photographer, you risk a warning. The photographer's name must always appear directly below the image, in accordance with applicable law. Or as the German copyright law puts it, “at work”.

There are four warning traps that you should be aware of:

  1. Even with free images, the author has the right to have his name mentioned.
  2. Just because you don't know the photographer's name doesn't absolve you from attribution rights.
  3. For platforms like fotolia it is sufficient if the author's name is mentioned in the imprint. Attention: These platforms cannot decide for themselves. Only the author has the right to be named. Some photographers on fotolia are already warning site operators about this.
  4. The courts are increasingly ruling that web designers are liable for copyright infringements, even if the customer supplies the images. Therefore, as a designer, you should always conclude a liability agreement with the customer for the content supplied.

Our practical tip

In order to counteract the risk of a legal dispute in advance, there are the following options:

An additional " Image sources " page is created in the footer of the website. A thumbnail (small image) is shown next to the respective author's name, so that the author can be clearly assigned to the respective image. The page with the image sources is then linked in the imprint under the section on copyright.

That's how it is with us

We have given our CMS an extension that makes it child's play to manage your image rights. The author's name can be easily added to any image, and it will automatically appear on the image sources page.

In addition, you can decide for each image whether the author's name should appear directly on the image. Very useful for guest posts, for example.

Why is it so easy for us? Because we love web design!

ATTENTION: The explanations are the result of our own research and summary. They are only to be understood as information, not as legal advice and do not claim to be correct and/or complete!