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Using photographs on social media

Posted: Tue Mar 23, 2021 8:00 pm
by Jonana
I have a new business that involves researching families and houses. I have an Instagram page where I give hints and tips to others on research and chat about some of the people I’m researching. If I find a photograph of said person online am I able to use this on Instagram under fair use?

As an example I’m researching a property that was lived in by a famous General. There is a great photo of him on national portrait gallery. Can I use this to discuss his career and life or would I need to pay a fee? I am not publishing the photos in a book or making any money from them. This picture dates from around the 1980’s.

Thank you

Re: Using photographs on social media

Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 8:53 am
by AndyJ
Hi Jonana,

Generally speaking, you need to assume that permission from the copyright owner is required before publishing any photograph you find on the internet. It doesn't matter whether you are publishing for commerecial or non-commercial purposes. However, there are some fair dealing exceptions which would allow you to make use of photographs and other copyright-protected works without permission, although you do need to cite the source in each case. You can find more details about the exceptions which relate to research here. From what you have told us, it sounds as if this would amount to fair dealing for the purpose of research and private study, and by using an NPG photograph you are on safer ground anyway because their terms and conditions do allow the use of their lower resolution images for free.
If you want to use an image created by, for instance, a freelance photographer and which is offered for a licence via a picture agency, much more care is needed as he or she will earn their living from the exploitation of their work and the picture agency will tend to have a more pro-active policy with regard to what they consider to be fair use. This is particularly problematic where photographs are concerned because in most cases you have to use the whole image, and the fair dealing doctrine usually falls short of allowing the whole of a work to be copied where this would confict with the author's own ability to financially benefit from his/her work. As you are doing this research as a business, consider how you would feel if someone took the whole of a piece of your research on a particular house and re-published it without your permission.

Re: Using photographs on social media

Posted: Wed Mar 24, 2021 5:17 pm
by Jonana
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I did read the guidelines on the NPG website but was still confused 🤣 and thought it was better to double check. It’s a bit of a minefield!