A European Union Court Rules that Online Photos Can’t Simply be Republished without Permission

A few weeks ago, I reported a Virginia federal court decision that finding a photo on the Internet and then using it without permission on a commercial website can be considered fair use. The decision is controversial, is not a landmark ruling that needs to be enforced by other courts, and may be overturned by a higher court before long. You can read more about that ruling in my earlier article at: http://bit.ly/2MxLsEU.

Now a European Court has ruled almost the opposite: internet users must ask for a photographer’s permission before posting their images online, even if the photos were already freely accessible on other websites. The court stated, “The posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorization by that author.”

Obviously,a ruling by a European court has no direct impact on U.S. courts. However, the latest ruling regarding the use of photos without permission obviously is still being contested worldwide.

Details may be found in an article by Janosch Delcker in the politico.eu web site at https://www.politico.eu/article/ecj-photographer-permission-ruling/.


Thank you for sharing this update. I really think it’s common courtesy to ask permission before sharing/posting a photo found online. If anything, it’s a great opportunity to give credit to the person who originally shared it.


The person who originally “shares an image” is often not the photographer and has no copyright interest in an image. The photographer of images of people from over 30, 40 years ago, especially when taken as a family snapshot, may never be known. The existence, identity, or whereabouts of a studio photo may never become known, either. A studio photograph may be considered a “photo for hire” and the copyright owned by the person who hired the studio (professional) photograph – even if the studio / professional retains the original negative (depending on their contract).


Many photos were taken in 1860 to 1940 and are on genealogy sites, newer photos are every where on face book and other places. It could take months of research to discover the origin. Some photos taken in early years have no photographer listed to attribute the photo , let us hope we do not go far down this rabbit hole


People should not be copying photos and placing on a commercial site without permission unless the photo is out of copyright, or in the public domain. Wikipedia has pretty strict rules about this for images placed on their site. I know it is a pain to get permission, but it’s the right thing to do.


Karl,   FYI   Regarding your posting of the link to the Virginia Federal Court decision.   The link below will give you the opinion of the European Union regarding copying photos found on line. Its different from the US point of view.   Ernie     https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-08/cp180123en.pdf  


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