The online world is awash with beautiful pictures but using an image without permission can have serious legal and financial repercussions. Before using any image, you need to check its copyright information: verify its original source, confirm by the owner whether you’re allowed to use it, and the terms involved in doing so. It may be, for example, that you can use the image under a specific Creative Commons license, and have to include clear information about its creator.
But how to tell if an image is copyrighted? Legally speaking, every work is copyrighted from the moment of its creation. Therefore, the short answer would be: yes, it is copyrighted since every image is copyrighted (for some very rare exceptions read until the end of the article).
Where you might need help though, is checking who owns the copyright, in order to first contact them for permission to use the given image. You are in the right place to get proper guidance.
How to check the copyright for an image?
The first step is to ascertain the correct owner of an image, and there are a number of ways to do this. Here’s our handy 5+1 guide for checking image copyright:
1. Look for an image credit or contact details
2. Look for a watermark
A watermark on an image is a clear sign that the image is copyrighted. Often, the watermark will contain text that indicates the name or company to whom the image belongs: do some googling and find out.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to use software to strip the image of its watermark. This demonstrates clear and wilful intent to infringe copyright — evidence which will likely work against you, should the case come before a court of law.