Publishing of images, copyright issues

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Jan Trnka, Polaris-Team

The revised Swiss Copyright Act (URG) came into force on 1 April 2020 and now protects all photos. When using photos of third parties for the homepage, the permission of the copyright holder is required - otherwise there may be consequences under criminal and civil law.

All photographs are now protected by copyright

With the copyright revision, all photographs are now protected across the board - regardless of whether they were taken by a professional or an amateur. This now also includes everyday snapshots, family and holiday photos, landscape pictures, product shots, press photos, etc. Thus, from now on, the permission of the copyright holder is always required if these images are to be used.

The prerequisite for protection is that the image depicts a three-dimensional object that was photographed with a camera or mobile phone. Protection of two-dimensional originals, i.e. a photocopy, photo of another image, photographs of texts and plans, etc., is not included.

Where these new regulations apply

The new copyright law thus has a concrete effect on many everyday situations: the use of other people's photos on one's own homepage or third party product photos in the webshop etc. is also no longer permitted without consent. It is also no longer permitted to post third-party images on social media (Facebook, Instagram...) without the consent of the copyright holder. However, sharing/linking image content is usually not a problem. An exception is the use of copyrighted images for purely private use. Such a photo can be downloaded to a PC and used as a wallpaper, for example.

Retroactive application of copyright law

The new protection of photographs also applies to old photographs taken before 01 April 2020. When using these, the consent of the author is therefore also required. If such an image has already been used on one's own website, no subsequent consent is required. However, a renewed use of the image in another context is no longer permitted.

Alternative options for image use

There are various portals on the internet that offer high-quality images, so-called stock photos, for free (and usually also commercial) use.

Some of the best-known platforms for free images are Pixabay, Pexels or Unsplash. In addition to these, there are also paid offerings with a variety of other professional images - platforms such as shutterstock or Adobe Stock are worth mentioning here.


Note:

PicRights Europe GmbH searches the Internet for images on behalf of Reuters News & Media Inc. and checks whether a copyright infringement has occurred. If an image is used illegally, PicRights collects the licence fees and possible fines on behalf of the client.

The agency is constantly finding new and old images on the websites of Rotary clubs that infringe copyrights and for which no licence fees have been paid. The subsequent payment of royalties is expensive.