Internet users must ask for a photographers permission before publishing their images, even if the photos were already freely accessible elsewhere online, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday.
“The posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorisation by that author,” the EUs top court said in a statement.
The court had been asked to decide on a case in Germany, in which a secondary school student downloaded and used a photo that had been freely accessible on a travel website for a school project. The photo was later posted on the schools website as well.
The photographer who took the picture argued the schools use of his photo was a copyright infringement because he only gave the travel site permission to use it, and claimed damages amounting to €400.
The ECJ ruled in the photographers favor, saying that under the EUs Copyright Directive, the school should have gotten his approval before publishing the photo.
“The Court goes on to hold that, subject to the exceptions and limitations laid down exhaustively in that directive, any use of a work by a third party without such prior consent must be regarded as infringing the copyright of that work,” the court said.
The court also said it is “of little importance” if the copyright holder does not limit “the ways in which the photograph may be used by internet users.”