Authorization required to re-pulish photos online

August 8, 2018
Copyright Intellectual Property

In a ruling yesterday, the European Court of Justice1, stated that, “the posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorisation by that author.”

The judgment was given in the case of Land Nordrhein-Westfalen vs Dirk Renckhoff.

The case is interesting, such that it is very common to find people using pictures downloaded from the Internet without much thought given to copyright laws.

Dirk Renckhoff is a photographer who authorized operators of a travel website to publish one of his photographs on their website. Subsequently, a pupil of a secondary school in Germany downloaded that photo for a school presentation. The latter was then published on the school website.

D. Renckhoff gave right of use to the operators of the travel website only; not to the pupil nor to the school. Therefore, any re-production, such as re-publishing of the photograph on the school website, constitute an infringement of Renckhoff’s copyright, as he claimed.

The court ruled that by posting the photograph on a website other than on which it was initially published with the consent of the copyright holder, must be regarded as making the photograph available to new public. The public taken into account by the copyright holder when giving his consent to publish his work on the travel website is not the same as the public for the school website. By posting on the Internet, the photograph is made available to a new public.

This puts into question the widespread practice of downloading images/photos from the Internet and re-publishing without the consent of copyright holders.

On another thought, I also do not recall any teacher mentioning the dos and don’ts of copyright to students when asking them to do research online for school projects.