Legal information for photographers
On this page we collected legal information that is important when you wish to publish and sell your photos on Photocase.
When our photo editing team accepts one of your images, this does not necessarily mean that the photo can legally be published on our platform. The legal situation for photography is complex and differs from country to country. As we are a company based in Germany, we follow German law on this topic. As a photographer, you must be aware of the legal situation in the country in which you take your photographs. Legally, your photos remain your property, thus it is ultimately your decision whether you wish to publish your photos and take the risk of that you could receive warnings or be charged damage compensation.
2. Photos of people
If you wish to publish photos of a recognizable person, you will require what’s known as a Model Release. We consider “recognizable” to be when a person’s face, or part of their face is visible, or if a person can be recognized by personal characteristics on their body. This can include things like tattoos. You should keep a signed copy of the Model Release and be prepared to present it in the case that someone files a complaint or takes legal action against you.
3. Photos of things and places
In the case of photos of things or places, property and trademark law can play a role. In many cases a Property Release will be required prior to publishing the photo. The Property Release is a written agreement from the owner or party responsible for management of the rights of the thing or place depicted on the photo.
In general, we do not accept photos where the main subject of the photo is a protected place or thing unless there is a Property Release. You can choose at your own discretion whether you wish to publish a photo where a protected place or thing is not the main subject of the photo. In any case, you should consider the following questions before you decide. The more questions you can answer “No” to, the better:
- Is the protected element the sole subject of the photo?
- Is the protected element only part of the photo, but still the main subject of the photo?
- If you changed or removed the protected element would the message of the image stay the same?
If a photo is changed by a customer, for instance if a street scene is cropped so that a logo or other protected element becomes the sole subject of the photo, neither Photocase nor the photographer will be liable for any problems that may arise as a result of this change.
Otherwise, the following applies:
- Photos of logos, company names, and trademarks - Logos, company names and trademarks should be retouched or made unrecognizable. Best case, trademarks should be retouched, when they are only a small part of the image.
- Photos of nameplates, addresses and license plates - Photos that can directly refer to a person should be retouched or made unrecognizable.
- Photos of maps of any kind - Are generally protected and require a Property Release.
- Photos of brand name clothing, shoes, and accessories (Fashion) - In general are protected and require a Property Release. This applies especially to clothing with a visible brand, or a very special cut/pattern/material or similar.
- Photos of cars, technical hardware, toys, furniture (Product design) - Are generally protected and require a Property Release.
- Photos of advertisements, poster, illustrations (Graphic Design) - Are generally protected by copyright and require a Property Release. This is especially true of a photo-of-a-photo, for example a street scene that depicts in part an advertisement.
- Photos of paintings, sculptures and photos-of-photos (Artwork) - Are generally protected by copyright and require a Property Release. This is especially true of a “photo-of-a-photo”, meaning an image of a painting or another photograph. Please also note that artwork, due to its unique nature, is often easily traced back to a specific location, such a museum or gallery. Usually there are additional restrictions on taking photos inside museums or galleries, and sometimes you are required to obtain shooting permission as well as a property release from the responsible authority. One exception is artwork that are permanently situated in a public area. This exception is known in German as Panoramafreiheit. In English it means “freedom of panorama” and usually means that you can publish a photo without a property release.
- External photos of buildings and construction works (Architecture) - Building architecture can be protected by copyright and would therefore require a Property Release. We are a German company and therefore follow German Law, meaning the Panoramafreiheit is applicable. This allows for the publication of buildings and other examples of architecture, so long as the photo was taken from a public place without the use of aids (e.g. tripod, ladder, drone, airplane, etc). As the photographer, you should learn the laws in your country, as well the country in which your are taking photos.
- Photos from the inside of buildings, or on private property - Usually the landlord, owner or tenant can decide on the use of photos that show the inside of their building or their private property. If location on the photo is recognizable, a Property Release would be required for publication. A Property Release would not be necessary if the photo was taken inside a building or on a private property, but has no clear identifying characteristics and could be anywhere. A property release for photos taken on publicly accessible private property, including train stations, parks, zoos, shopping centers, theaters, sporting facilities etc, would also be required.
- Aerial photos - Aerial photos of buildings or architectural examples are often falsely considered as “Panoramafreiheit” and taken from a public place. The problem is, as these photos were taken with technical assistance (e.g. drone, airplane, glider, hot air balloon, etc), they are to be considered as photos taken from inside or on private property and would require a property release.
- Photos of military installations, airports, power plants or other security-relevant infrastructure - Usually not permitted due to security reasons.
4. Other protected places or things
In the past, we have learned that some subjects cannot be published:
- The lightshow on the Eiffel Tower at night
- Sydney Opera House (A Panorama with the city and harbour is permitted, but not if the opera house is the sole subject of the photo)
- The Atomium in Brussel
- The ICE of the Deutsche Bahn
- The Neuschwanstein Castle (neither from the grounds nor from the Marienbrücke)