Can someone copyright a photo of me?

Image copyright: What are the rules for snapshots?

From, last update on: February 18, 2021

Photos form a very special kind of communication and are spread rapidly through the Internet. Regardless of whether the photographs are Selfies, snapshots or artistic recordings is, the copyright places these images under protection.

FAQ on image copyright

Who is the author of photographs or photographic works?

Image copyright is based on the person who pulled the shutter button on the camera.

Are there any images without copyright?

In Germany, a photo always falls under copyright law. However, there are image databases in which royalty-free photos are sometimes even offered free of charge. If such images are used, it is usually sufficient to cite the source accordingly; remuneration does not have to be paid.

Is a warning when a picture is stolen the only way to claim the picture rights?

When stealing pictures on the Internet or with printed matter, you can also contact the infringer directly and request clarification in this way. This is particularly useful if you want to forego the payment of damages.

How do I prove the authorship of a picture?

As a rule, it is assumed that the author of an image is in possession of the original, usually higher-resolution image file or the negative. He thus enjoys the protection of the copyright for this image.

How can copyright infringement be prevented?

There are several ways you can protect your images. Watermarks are an option. These can prevent third parties from using your photos.

Rights to the picture: The legal bases

The legal rules and regulations for photos and images are under the heading "Image right" summarized. In addition to the copyright for images, which is in Copyright Act (UrhG), the main thing is that Art Copyright Act (KunstUrhG) to be observed. This regulates the “right to one's own image”.

What this Laws in detail should be considered below.

Right to your own picture: Which regulations do you have to observe?

The right to one's own image is guaranteed by the Law on the copyright in works of fine arts and photography - unofficially also referred to as the Art Copyright Act - protected.

At the Right to your own picture it is a special case of Right to informational self-determination, which is anchored in Art. 2 of the Basic Law.

The KunstUrhG states in § 22 including the following:

Images may only be distributed or publicly displayed with the consent of the person depicted. In case of doubt, consent is deemed to have been given if the person depicted has received remuneration for being shown. "

Explanation of terms for the KunstUrhG

The image is considered to be the Reproduction of the external appearance of a human. This image can be a sketch, painting, caricature or photograph, among other things.

A distribution is used as analog transmission for objects and as transmission described.

If an image is made visible to an unlimited group of people, it is what is described in the law public display.

The consent of the people depicted must refer to the planned use refer to the illustration. It is usually advisable to obtain this in writing.

One consent there is still a need ten years after death of the depicted. This is then done by the relatives of the person photographed. The law defines surviving spouses or partners as well as the children of the person depicted as relatives.

Under certain conditions a publication of pictures too without the usually required consent possible. These special rules are laid down under Section 23 KunstUrhG. The following images may therefore be displayed without consent:

  • Pictures with people from contemporary history
    People of contemporary history are in public and there is one special interest in the person and his life. It is therefore permissible to photograph them, to distribute and publish the photos without their consent.

    However, this also applies to people of contemporary history Right to privacy and privacy. Here, an individual balancing of the interests of the public and the private sphere must be made. General rights such as the fundamental right to protection of family and private life must also be included.
  • Pictures with people as accessories
    People who coincidentally walk past a photographed building. Just at Tourist Attractions it is almost impossible to get consent from everyone.
  • Pictures of meetings, elevators and similar events
    At Major events like political demonstrations as well as cultural and popular events, it is hardly possible to obtain the consent of all recognizable persons. So that documentation is still possible, permission can be waived if the event is in the foreground and no highlighting of individual participants takes place.
  • Images that serve a higher interest in art
    If recordings are made of people without an order, these can also be free of consent if the Dissemination or publication serves a higher interest in art. Financial reasons must therefore not be the focus. When there is greater interest, the Individual case to be examined and decided.

A Repeal These special rules will take place, however, when due to the dissemination and exhibition legitimate interest of the person pictured violated becomes. The same applies to the relatives after his death.

Authorities may distribute and publish images for the administration of justice and public safety without the consent of the person depicted. This is regulated in § 24 of the KunstUrhG. This paragraph can be found at, for example Mug Shots Application.

The KunstUrhG regulates the Sanctionsthat follow a disregard of Sections 22 and 23. If images are distributed or publicly displayed without permission, the law sees one as a sanction Imprisonment of up to one year or a fine in front.

The prosecution takes place only after the Submission of a criminal complaint instead of. Violations of the Art Copyright Act are therefore Filing offenses.

Image copyright: the most important regulations

The Copyright protects all photosIt is irrelevant whether these were created analog or digital. However, the copyright law distinguishes between photographs Photographic works and photographs.

As Originator of photographs is the one who has the Camera triggers. Legally, this person is called Photographers designated.

Photographic works are among the works protected according to § 2 UrhG. To this Works from literature, science and art also include works of language, works of music, films, works of dance art and technical or scientific representations such as maps and tables.

For a photograph to be considered a photographic work, it must be a personal-spiritual creation act. This is the case when the image is special Design height achieved and thus represents an individual and artistic idea of ​​the creator.

To the Creativity and individuality of the photographic work can include the following Design means be used:

  • Motif choice
  • Use of light and shadow
  • Choice of perspective and detail
  • Use of filters, lenses and other technology
  • Post-processing options (retouching, photo montage, collage, etc.)

If images fall under copyright law, the associated rights are both both the work and the author are protected. The most important standards for images protected by copyright include moral rights, exploitation rights and the corresponding rights of use.

Moral Rights: The relationship between the author and the work

The Moral rights consist of the right to publish, the recognition of the authorship and the paragraph against the distortion of the work. The individual components of moral rights protect the Relationship between the author and his work.

By the Publication right the author himself can decide when and in what form his creation is published. In this way, he can also completely decide against publication.

Whether a work of art with a Author designation and how this is indicated (initials, pseudonym, full name, etc.) is decided by the respective creator. This right is guaranteed by the Acknowledgment of authorship awarded in moral rights.

In order to prevent the creation from being impaired, an author Measures against the disfigurement seize the work. It is irrelevant whether the change objectively represents an improvement, because the respective original is considered to be the best possible result.

What are the physical or incorporeal exploitation rights for images?

So is a creator too benefited financially from his work, the copyright grants him the so-called Exploitation rights a. These rights belong solely to the author, cannot be sold and encompass both the physical and the incorporeal form of utilization.

The physical form of recovery includes the following rights, among others:

  • Right of reproduction
    Should a photo copied or scanned consent of the author is required. If necessary, he or she can also demand remuneration.
  • Distribution right
    A dissemination exists when the author of an image or its reproduction offers in public.
  • Exhibition right
    When, if and how a still unpublished photograph issued only the author decides.

Find the Playback in a fleeting or brief form instead, it is usually a Utilization in incorporeal form. For example, the Creator has the following rights:

  • Right of demonstration
    In order for a photographic work to be perceptible to the public, technical facilities such as Beamer or projectors used. The right of showing only applies to works of the visual arts, films and photographic works.
  • Broadcast right
    The right to broadcast prevents unauthorized and / or non-remunerated use of the image by broadcast prevented.
  • Right of reproduction by image and sound carriers
    Should photos be used as part of a performance or lectures subsequently perceptible usually video or sound carriers are required. The consent of the photographer is required for this reproduction.

Usage rights: exploitation by third parties

If a photographer cannot use his photographs economically enough, there is the possibility of Third party those previously listed Grant rights for exploitation. Copyright refers to this as Usage rights.

The granting of the rights of use for photos or all other types of work is usually carried out by a written contract. These licenses can vary in scope or be limited.

In the case of usage rights, a distinction can be made as to whether they are simple or exclusive in nature. A simple right of use allows the acquirer of the rights - also known as the exploiter - to use the respective work in the agreed manner. However, further use by other users or the author is possible.

A photographer presents his photographs for a company Promotional activities available, these are often simple rights of use for reproduction and distribution. However, if the company wants to ensure that no competitor uses the identical photo, the exclusive usage rights for pictures to be purchased.

By acquiring the exclusive rights, a Recovery by other people prevented, This regulation also excludes use by the author.

Limitations of Copyright

The copyright rights listed above are not fully unrestricted. Exists a General interest at the works, this can be a Limitation of Copyright have as a consequence. These are so-called barriers.

The barriers of copyright law include:

  • Temporary acts of reproduction
    To a smooth and low-noise playback To ensure media, modern technology uses short-term caching in the main memory of computers. This is a temporary reproductionwhich is not punished by the copyright law.
  • Newspaper articles and radio commentaries
    For the Creation of press reviews it is permissible to print or broadcast articles on current issues from politics, economics or religion. The claims for the corresponding remuneration are handled by collecting societies.
  • Reproductions for private use
    For private use, i.e. the Creation of individual private copies, reproduction is permitted. For this type of recovery is in the form of Device delivery paid a fee. Payment is made when purchasing devices and storage media that enable reproduction and are offset against the purchase price.

What are photographs?

Photographs are referred to as photographs, which one sufficient height of creation is missing. Examples of photographs include Snapshots - such as vacation, family and party shots -, images from surveillance cameras and medical images - such as x-rays.

As a rule, the applies to photographs same copyright protection as for photographic works. It is only important to make a distinction between the limitation period for copyright and the Calculation of damages.

The Statute of limitations of the copyright for photos is according to § 72 UrhG 50 years. The period begins either after the first publication or, if the image was never published, after it has been created.

A rough distinction can be made between the photograph and the photographic work:
A photograph is a unaltered lifelike reproduction. This is the case, for example, with photos of paintings or product photography.

Is the Design of photography in the foreground, so if it is more than just a snapshot, it usually counts as a photographic work.

Copyright infringement: When images are used illegally

Will be photographs without the consent of the rights holder used, there is a copyright infringement. In such a case, the author can take action against this violation of rights and initiate legal measures.

The UrhG leads various for this purpose Expectations which the author in civil right can assert:

  • Right to cease and desist
    Through the Injunctive relief is to ensure that it is too no repetition the copyright infringing act comes. For this purpose, a pre-formulated declaration of discontinuance is usually sent.
  • Elimination right
    If the infringement of the copyright persists, the Elimination claim the removal of these will be required. The right to removal is a supplement to omission.
  • Right to compensation
    Around financial losses To retaliate, rightholders can claim payment of damages. Often a so-called License analogy used. The profit is estimated through the fees from a fictitious license agreement.
  • Right to destruction, recall and surrender
    With the claim to destruction, recall and surrender, the creator can make possible Take plagiarism out of circulation. These claims are mostly used for physical recovery.
To these claims in the event of a violation of copyright to assert out of court, there is usually a warning.

Warning - claim the image rights

A warning is a Process avoidance method. The writing is mostly done by a Lawyer dispatched, acting on behalf of the author. But also Private individuals As the rights holder, you can send a warning.

As a rule, a warning for unauthorized use of protected works consists of the following Components:

  • Arrangement that Remove images or destroy the copies
  • Request to submit a declaration of discontinuance
  • Offer to pay for a Comparison amount

As a Warning for pictures or their unauthorized use between private individuals is shown in the following as an example template:

I'm an example
Example path 12
12345 example city


Benno defendant
Example avenue 77
56789 example village

Example city, the xx.xx.xxxx


Dear defendant,

As the person responsible for the website, you have committed a copyright infringement, which I, as the rights holder, hereby warn. You have published photographs, the rights of which I own as the author. You have failed to obtain the necessary consent for the exploitation of the images, although I as the author alone can decide in which form my work will be published, distributed or used.

Specifically, I am referring to the photo "xyz.jpg", which you use on your website:

I hereby ask you to

  1. remove the corresponding photo immediately from your side,
  2. to protect the copyrights of my pictures in the future,
  3. to sign the attached cease and desist declaration by xx.xx.xxxx and send it back to me.

I am interested in an out-of-court settlement of this copyright infringement and therefore offer you clarification by paying compensation in the amount of EUR xxx.xx by xx.xx.xxxx.

If you fail to meet the requirements by the deadline specified, I will take further legal steps.

With best regards

Date, signature

The sample is available for download below:
Template for a warning for images on the Internet as a PDF file (.pdf)
Template for a warning for images on the Internet as a Word file (.doc)

Internet and pictures: you should pay attention to this

The copyright for images is just as valid on the Internet as it is for printed matter. Because of this, it may be illegal if you Simply copy and use images from the Internet. Because if you post someone else's photos or use them on your blog without the permission of the respective rights holder, you violate the copyright law. Commonly this act is also called Picture or photo theft designated.

What to look for in the Use of photos on the Internet The following list shows you should pay attention so that you do not violate the copyright for images:

  • Change pictures only with the consent of the author
    All images are subject to copyright, so you are not allowed to simply copy them from the Internet. There is a threat of a warning.
  • Use photos only from reputable image databases
    You should only acquire rights and photographs via databases that you can rely on that they are actually authorized to use them for the photographer.
  • Note the usage rights
    The rights of use are often only acquired for certain types of exploitation, for example only for print media or social media.
  • Provide a source
    Due to the copyright on the image, the creator has the right to be named. If this insists on citing the source, you must comply with this request.
  • Please note that royalty-free images are also subject to copyright law
    The provisions of copyright law also apply to license-free photos. As a rule, however, there is only a small remuneration for these images.

What influence does image processing have on copyright?

The copyright for images see a general prohibition of change before, because the processing and subsequent publication of protected works requires the Author's consent or the rights holder.

Editing also creates does not automatically create a new workwhose author you are. This usually takes more than a few clicks with the image editing software.

Images and the copyright

Especially online, the sources for images are often introduced with a circled C (©). This is a so-called Copyright notice. This type of labeling of works that are subject to copyright protection is mainly used in american space used.

The copyright makes it clear to everyone that a economic recovery takes place and fees may apply for use.

In Germany this is no explicit note necessarybecause copyright automatically protects a photo from the moment it is created.

But why do German authors also use the copyright for images? Even if a copyright notice is not necessary according to German copyright law, many rights holders hope that this marking will give them one additional protection. Because it is explicitly pointed out that these are not copyright-free images.

In addition, as already mentioned, the photographer can according to the Moral rights decide for yourself in what way he appear as the author want.

So will Photographs from a picture agency used, the References correspond to their specifications. Since these companies usually operate internationally, a uniform format is often required and the copyright notice is integrated into it.

Copyright for the image - short and compact

The Copyright protects images and their creators against unwanted duplication, distribution or editing. With a few exceptions, this protection applies to all photographs. In addition, this gives the author the opportunity to appeal against Image theft proceed legally.

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Image copyright: What are the rules for snapshots?
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