How you can become copyright free - learn the industries secrets - Dreamstime

How many times did you get a rejection because you forgot to remove a license plate, an iPhone button or a tiny artwork on a wall behind you main subject?

When shooting people, the protocol is simple (have a model release printed, make sure it's a good general MR or a Dreamstime one, have it completed by the model and signed, have a witness, check it again for all details and click submit).

However, the ice becomes a lot thinner when it comes to objects, art and buildings. All photographers go through this issue at some point in their miscrostock career and they get lost in the sea of copyright more often than expected.

It is the photographer's responsibility to ensure there are no copyright issues with submissions and it is also in his/her best interest to avoid these due to potential liabilities. So for your safety and to help you get copyright free images online, here are some common copyright secrets:

Have you been shooting cars, motorcycles, trains, ships, planes? You should be aware of a few facts:

- license plates are copyright. If you choose to remove them altogether, kudos to you, but if you will just modify them you need to specify this in a comment for the admin

- train numbers, ship numbers/names are copyright and you should remove or alter them with the same specifications as above

- we still don't accept Porsches, Ferraris and Harley Davidsons, completely copyrighted and editorial only.

Did you go to Ikea, the mall, or any other store?

- make sure you removed every little tag that can give you away

- barcodes are copyrighted

- check that you can sell commercial images taken inside the stores as some stores may have an issue with this, in which case you can only submit as editorial.

Works of art, unique creations and other such objects:

- those are definitely copyright,

- altering or simply removing them from the picture can be a solution when they are just a small part of the image and out of focus but, if they are your main subject, it is better to get a property release. Altering won't work in this case because: a) the work itself will still be recognizable and b) you will lose the actual subject of your image, which defeats the purpose

- if you can't obtain a release, the only place to submit an art work is the editorial section, provided it has such value

- remember that there are products which simply won't make it in the commercial area: Haribo gummy bears and even cheap knock offs, Wunder Baum (the Wonder Tree that is hanging by your car's rear view mirror), Coca Cola bottle, yellow ducks with sunglasses, and the list can continue.

Always dreamt of going to New York?

- many buildings around the world are protected by copyright: Empire State, Sydney Opera House, MoMA, anything by Calatrava, Eiffel Tour (only at night), Guggenheim Museum and so on

- getting a property release to sell images with those buildings as commercial would be next to impossible and probably rather expensive.

- always consider the editorial section for buildings protected by copyright

Last but not least:

- keep in mind that you are responsible for the accuracy of your submissions

- check, double check and triple check at 100%

- if in doubt, you can send us an email and we will do our best to guide you

- don't forget to have fun.

Photo credits: Alphaspirit, Fantasyart, Kim Carlson, Opindraws, Photoeuphoria, Zhukovsky.

Your article must be written in English

May 26, 2014


Thanks for the useful information. I had no idea Eiffel was copyrighted, good grief.

February 22, 2014


A very usefull article.Thanks

October 23, 2013


I think it might be useful to have a look at this DT thread, started by Achilles and which has been there since 2004:

Trademarks - what kind of images you shouldn't upload

September 29, 2013


Thanks for the tips!

September 27, 2013


One trick (which is painstaking) is to create your own adverts and labels to cover what was there and copyrighted like my image here. Even the images used in the 'fake' posters on the bus are mine. Buses with white blanks all over do not look real and don't sell as well. A lot of work, sure, but customers do appreciate the difference.

See image ID 1112978


September 26, 2013


Thanks for sharing!

September 22, 2013


Thank you very much! It is of great help to upload my photos!

September 16, 2013


Jonybigude, sure you can use, please provide a link back to my original article.

September 14, 2013


Thanks,Interesting and very useful article´╝îThanks again

September 14, 2013


This is a great entry!! I wonder if I can use it on my e-magazine:, can I??

September 10, 2013


Thanks for a good reminder.

September 10, 2013


thanks you;I sent this photo with editorial license:

September 09, 2013


thanks,interesting and very useful article .)

September 09, 2013


Sagearts, there are some buildings and sculptures that can't be approved, even as editorial.

September 09, 2013


Thanks for your sharing!!!

September 07, 2013


I was told that a series of images of a Calatrava building that I submitted were not even allowed under an Editorial license. Have things changed, or is that simply an optimistic word of encouragement?

September 05, 2013


Thanks for sharing!!!

September 04, 2013


What a royal pain! Everyone wants a piece of the action. Too many lawyers with not enough clients so they're going after the scraps at the bottom of the barrel. In 10 years we'll need a model and property release for virtually every photograph!

September 04, 2013


Thanks for your sharing!

September 04, 2013


Very good reminder. Thanks for sharing :)

September 04, 2013


Lejoch, panoramas are usually ok.
You can do a search on Google and see if the respective building is protected or not. Unfortunately there is no exhaustive list on the internet to contain all copyrights.

September 04, 2013


Very useful and well written. However, how can I know if a building is protected by copyright or not? What about "freedom of panorama" ( Copyright Wikipedia)?

September 04, 2013


Brad, it is the buyer's responsibility to read and respect the terms and conditions of the license they are purchasing.

September 04, 2013


It is never too much to recall those copyright issues.

September 03, 2013


Thanks for sharing. Will be very helpful to many!

September 03, 2013


Thanks for sharing, great blog.

September 03, 2013


Really useful blog. Many thanks for sharing!!!

September 03, 2013


Thank you for sharing !

September 03, 2013


Thanks for sharing this, great blog!

September 03, 2013


Is there any risk for images sold editorially, that they are used commercially? I've seen time and time again images that are editorial only used on websites for advertising. Who bears the responsibility for that? The buyer has breached the license terms, so seems like it is on them - but they might put your name on it :) Personally I'd like to see the editorial use warning a bit more bold and in red: Images can be used to illustrate truthful articles in print and electronic newspapers/magazines/journals. Not to be used in commercial designs and/or advertisements

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