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Articles and legal news from the Atkinson Vinden Team.

Copyright in Pictures on the Internet

Property Law

Some of you may have read recently in the news about a photographer who discovered that a picture they had taken had been copied from the internet and used on t-shirts widely available for sale in Australia.

This situation highlights a variety of issues both for the owners of a copyright and for entities that wish to use pictures which may be subject to the copyright of others.

The first point to note is that there is no system of registration of copyright in Australia. Copyright exists in certain original items when they are created and there is no requirement that the copyright owner note on the material that copyright exists. As such, you cannot simply assume that a picture available on the internet which does not identify the author is free to use. Doing so may leave you open to legal action including having to hand over any profits you have made from the use of the material.

Of course this does not necessarily mean that a copyright owner’s rights are automatically protected if their works are published on the internet. Many websites, including for example Instagram and Facebook, have terms which grant them a licence regarding the use of any materials published on their site for certain purposes. As such it is important to know what you are agreeing to when you upload a photo or other material as you may be effectively giving up the right to have your material attributed to you and the website owner may be able to commercialise and profit from your works.

These are just some of the issues to be aware of when dealing with copyright and the internet. If you have any concerns about how people have been using your copyright material, or whether you are entitled to use material you have discovered please feel free to contact one of our Intellectual Property team on 9411 4466.