Image Rights

What are image rights, and what types of rights exist?

Image rights primarily refer to copyright, which is the right of the photographer or designer over an image. In addition to copyright, there are also rights related to one's own image, known as personality rights, as well as trademark rights, design rights, artist rights, and property rights, including the right of access control. Depending on the image or subject, completely different legal areas may need to be considered, and photographers may sometimes need to obtain permission to take photographs. Furthermore, image rights vary significantly on an international level. For example, in France, there is no freedom of panorama, which essentially restricts the publication of photos of the Eiffel Tower.

Who has the right to their own image?

In Germany, every individual has the right to decide whether they want to be photographed or not. This is especially relevant when the image is intended for publication. In principle, it is a matter of the right to one's own image, which is protected by personal rights. This right is relevant for recognizable individuals and is established in the German Copyright Act Kunsturhebergesetz §22, sentence 1. In sentence 2, it is stated that consent is considered given when compensation is provided. However, there are exceptions to the right to one's own image. This includes situations involving contemporary historical documents and public figures such as politicians, high-ranking business executives, scientists, artists (singers, actors, etc.), and athletes. In such cases, the historical context is more relevant than the depicted person. For example, it is permissible to photograph a DAX CEO at a shareholders' meeting and publish the photo, but not the same individual in a private context, such as sitting on a park bench. Random snapshots, however, are exempt from these restrictions. If the same person were sitting in front of a landmark on a park bench, and the bench only made up a tiny portion of the image, the right to one's own image would not be violated.

Which photos are allowed to be published?

In Germany, the freedom of panorama applies. This means that buildings can be photographed. However, if buildings have been temporarily transformed into artworks, other rights may come into play. Additionally, the right to privacy must not be violated. Unidentifiable people are not a problem. If you want to be on the safe side, it's advisable to obtain written consent, as the burden of proof lies with the photographer or publisher. Companies must also obtain consent from their employees if they want to publish their photos on their website.

Furthermore, privacy must not be violated using telephoto lenses or drones. In the latter case, the right of access control might also be violated. An unobservable property cannot be photographed by a drone. Likewise, museums, restaurants, and bars can decide whether artworks, food, or drinks may be photographed. If there is a prohibition, then these photos cannot be published.

How does DAM image rights management work?

Neglected or non-existent image rights can be costly for the publishing company. That's why one of the functions of DAM – Digital Asset Management – is the management and documentation of these image rights; they serve image rights management.

Image rights are particularly significant when it comes to stock photos. Typically, rights are purchased for specific purposes and conditions, for example, images at a resolution that allows for use in a DIN A4 glossy publication with a circulation of up to 100,000 copies or for web projects with up to 50,000 page views per month for 2 years.

Digital Asset Management systems like TESSA DAM are suitable for managing this because, on one hand, the rights related to an asset can be documented, and, on the other hand, automation features make managing the affected assets easier. For example, it's possible to automatically hide or set reminders for assets with expired rights or rights that are about to expire.