When you use a photograph of a recognizable individual in a University publication, you need to make sure that the University has the necessary copyright to use the actual photograph AND has not infringed upon any privacy rights of the individual photographed.
These frequently asked questions will guide you on the use of photographs in University Publications.
What is copyright and how of does it affect the University’s use of photographs in publications?
Copyright law is the exclusive right of the copyright owner to do or authorize to (i) reproduce their works; (ii) use their works to create new derivative works; (iii) distribute copies or to the public by sale or transfer of ownership; and (iv) perform publicly/display their works. In order to reproduce, edit, distribute, or public display a photograph, the University must have the copyright in the actual photograph or permission to use the photograph from the copyright owner.
Does the University own the copyright to photographs taken by the university photographer?
Yes, the University owns all photographs taken by the university photographer or any employee acting within the scope of his/her employment. Even though the University owns the copyright to the actual photograph, the University should make sure that it has the necessary permission of the subject of the photograph. (See Subject Permission Section.)
Does the University own the copyright to photographs taken by freelance photographers?
If the University has hired freelance photographers for a University sponsored event, the University requires all freelance photographers to sign the standard professional service agreement that stipulates the University is the copyright owner for all works created . (Here is the University’s standard Professional Service Agreement – Work Made For Hire). If the standard professional service agreement is signed, then the University is copyright owner for the photographs.
Absent a signed written agreement that states a freelance photographer transfers all copyright to the University, the freelance photographer retains copyright ownership to his/her photographs and the University must obtain permission.
Even though the University owns the copyright to the actual photograph or has the permission from the copyright owner, the University should make sure that it has the necessary permission of the subject of the photograph. (See Subject Permission Section.)
What about photographs taken by students, alumni, or staff?
Absent a written agreement, the University does not own the copyright to photographs that are submitted by third parties. Rather, the University needs the copyright owner’s permission to use the photographs. Consent can be implied either through the parties’ interactions (e.g., photographs submitted by copyright owner for inclusion on a story) or verbal consent. If possible written permission is always recommended because it clearly documents the parties’ intentions.
Even though the University has the copyright owner’s permission, the University should make sure that it has the necessary permission of the subject of the photograph. (See Subject Permission Section.)
Should I obtain a release from an identified individual in the photograph?
Generally, the University should obtain an image release from any student, faculty member, staff person, or member of the public who is visibly recognizable in the photograph.
Do I really need to obtain a release from an identified individual in the photograph even if the photograph is used for report on a campus event?
No, if you are using a photograph to describe what happened at a public event in a university newspaper, magazine, or newsletter, then obtaining permission from the subject is not necessary. However, if you take that same photograph and reuse it for a more commercial purpose (e.g., promotional materials), then the University should obtain the subject’s consent.
Do I really need to obtain permission from all the individuals in a crowded group shot?
Generally, the University does not need to obtain written permission for crowded group shots, where individuals are not easily identifiable. Whenever practical the photographer should try to get the group’s permission to their image either verbally before taking the photograph or by having a sign to indicate that the University may take the subject’s photograph and use it for whatever purpose.
What if I am unsure about the use of a particular photograph?
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact University Publications at x5970.