Stansfield suggested "watermarking" the image as a form of basic protection. "This can be done by making it incapable of reproduction without also reproducing the watermark," Stansfield explained. "It might be a statement of ownership or some other identifier across the image, making it unfeasible to use commercially without obtaining a cleared image from an authorised source. It could also provide a means for a prospective user to contact the photographer to discuss licensing."
"Metadata can also be embedded in digital files containing the images, identifying the copyright proprietor and containing other key data such as licensing terms," added Stansfield. "There are also software products which can be used to trawl the web for usage of images, either with or without metadata."
The Copyright Hub
Stansfield noted that discussions are on-going in the UK regarding establishing a Copyright Hub. This would be a not-for-profit, industry-led mechanism for copyright owners to register their works and provide a platform for licensing them to users, and for users to track down owners, he explained. This came out of a report on intellectual property commissioned by the Government from Professor Ian Hargreaves, published in 2011.
How to avoid infringing someone's copyright
Companies wishing to ensure that they don't infringe someone's copyright should ensure that any use of materials is approved by someone with knowledge of the legal ramifications.
Stansfield suggested the following strategy: "For large organisations using copyright works created by others, risk of infringing can be managed through establishing processes by which approval for usage must be obtained from people within the organisation aware of the copyright and licensing issues. Where use had been licensed, details of the terms and extent of usage should be available to, and checked by, anybody using that material."
He added: "It is also important to manage processes undertaken by external creative agencies on behalf of large organisations. This can be a matter of making clear in contracts and associated processes what is required and, perhaps, checking from time to time that the right steps are being taken by those agencies."
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