Monday, 18 February 2019 10:16

Copyright - don't fall foul of the law!

Just because it’s on the web, it doesn’t mean you can use it!


Copyright – a quick guide

Whenever you produce material for the diocese, your parish, church, group or organisation, you need to be aware of copyright law and best practice.

This applies to both printed material (posters, magazines, leaflets etc) and digital work (websites, e-newsletters, social media, including video and audio).

Here’s a quick guide to help you not fall foul of copyright law.

What is copyright?

The definition of copyright is: the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.

It is there to protect artists and their work and sets out the rights of the owner, as well as the responsibilities of other people who want to use the work.

The easiest way of understanding this is:

in order to use anyone else’s work, you either need to pay or you need their permission!

If you don’t have their permission, you are in danger of breaching copyright law.


If you use someone else’s work, they are entitled to be paid for it.


What kind of work is covered?

Copyright protection kicks in automatically as soon as an artist’s work is created; they don’t need to register work to ensure their rights are protected by copyright.

Copyright covers photography, illustration (including drawings and logos), music, web content, software, sound and music recordings, film and television recordings, broadcasts, … and more.

So, for example, the moment a photographer presses the shutter release on their camera to take a picture they, as the creator, immediately own copyright on that picture.

The moment an artists does a sketch, painting or cartoon, they immediately own the copyright.

And if the picture is taken as part of work carried out in a full-time job (as an employee), then often the employer owns the copyright.

According to the government’s Intellectual Property Office website:
“In the UK, copyright in images lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years from the end of the calendar year of their death although the length of the copyright period will depend on when the image was created. That means that images less than 70 years old are still in copyright, and older ones may well be, depending on when the creator died.”

Sometimes, a photo is marked with a © to show it is copyrighted, but just because a photo doesn’t have the symbol, it doesn’t mean it isn’t copyrighted and it certainly doesn’t mean you can help yourself.


What does that mean for me?

It means that if you want to use a photo in your parish magazine or on your church website or on a data display (eg a screen in your church), you cannot go onto Google and help yourself!

If you want to use a photo, you have to know who owns the copyright and get their permission to use it. Make sure you have permission in writing (email is fine).

The easiest way to do that is to take the picture yourself!

Otherwise, get someone you know to take it for you and be sure you have their permission before you print it or upload it to a website or social media.

Also be aware that just because Derby Church House or the Church of England uses a picture, it doesn't mean you can use it. We may have special permissions to use images in certain ways.

For example, all the pictures on Derbyshirechurches.org are licensed for use on that website ONLY.

If you copy them or use them elsewhere, you are breaking the copyright agreement and may receive a bill or even a fine!


But I don’t know who has copyright on the photo I want to use!

Maybe you don’t, but that doesn’t mean the copyright magically disappears or that you can break the rules.

If you don’t know who owns the copyright, that means you don’t have permission from them - so don’t use the picture!


Aren’t pictures on Google in the public domain anyway?

They are in public view, for sure, but most are still under copyright. Just because you can see them on the internet or in Google, or because other people have used them, does NOT mean you can use them too!

As for the words ‘public domain’, be careful of that term as it doesn’t really mean what you think it does and is usually used incorrectly.

Most people think it means being in the public eye, in public view and there for all to see. However, the real definition of a photo being ‘in public domain’ means the copyright has legally expired.

So, images on Google are in public view, but they are unlikely to be ‘in public domain’ (out of copyright) as they will probably be less than 70 years old.


Will anyone know if I just ‘borrow’ a picture for a magazine or website?

Quite probably, yes!

There is software used by many people that allows them to search the internet and media for copies of their photos, so there’s no hiding place!

And just remember, if someone does find that you have used their picture without permission, they are perfectly entitled to send you a bill for any amount they want!


My vicar/neighbour took the picture... surely I can use that?

Yes you can... AS LONG AS you have permission from the person who took the picture (and as long as it doesn't breach our safeguarding guidelines)


Where can I get pictures?

If you need a fairly generic image - eg ‘strawberries’, 'church' or ‘sunset’ – try one of several ‘free image’ websites, such as Unsplash or Pexels or Pixabay, but do check the copyright details for each individual image.


What about music?

Music too is copyrighted - probably more so than images - and there can be many stakeholders in the copyright of music: composers, arrangers, artists, publishers, printers, record labels and others may all be entitled top a share of the payment.

If you are unsure about the copyright on a piece of music, phone CCLI on 01323 436100.



There are a lot of Dave Walker's excellent cartoons doing the rounds on social media, on the web and in parish magazines etc.

Like any other artwork, they are subject to copyright and the creator has a right to be paid for their use.

Derby Church House has an agreement with Dave Walker that we can use these cartoons in training presentations (eg PowerPoint presentations) and training handouts ONLY. 

Please be advised that you SHOULD NOT use these in your parish magazines, newsletters, social media or websites as these uses are not covered by the license agreement.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 June 2023 14:08

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