You must secure the express and specific permission of the rights holder(s) whenever you want to include a copyrighted photograph in your digital project.  This requirement extends to any photograph obtained for use on a Yale website if Yale does not already own the rights to the photograph.

Further, use of a photograph may implicate other rights that would need to be cleared in addition to the copyright in the photograph, to the extent relevant:

  • other copyrights, if art or architectural works are captured in the photograph;
  • trademark, if product, service, or corporate identifiers are captured in the photograph; or
  • publicity/privacy rights, if a person’s image is captured in the photograph.

The copyright in a photograph may be held by the photographer, his or her estate, or a corporation (e.g., a publisher) to which the photographer has assigned the copyright.  Where the rights to the photograph are not controlled by the photographer, rights in a photograph may often be secured or cleared through stock photo companies, media companies, archives, and estates.  For corporate rights holders (e.g., media or stock photo companies), the process will be similar to that discussed under the publishing section and you may use a format similar to the sample written request for permission on the University of Texas Libraries website, unless the owner requests the use of its own form.

The challenge in clearing such rights will be to identify and capture the attention of the appropriate rights-clearance or business person.

Summary:  Photographs – Potential Rights Holders/Required Rights

Photographer (or his or her estate)

  • Send a written request for permission to use a photograph (following a format similar to the template provided on the University of Texas Libraries website).

Corporation (e.g., stock photo company, media company, archive)

  • Generally, a corporate owner such as a stock photo or media company grants rights to use their photographs.  Refer to the company’s website for instructions and forms.