Copyrights and Yearbook Photos

Dec 2nd 2016

Copyright Law is Serious Stuff

As you design your yearbook, you will be using and including thousands of photos and text pieces. Most of it will come from school yearbook staff or photographers and won’t be a copyright concern. But, there may be some images and wording that need to be carefully considered.

When determining other images or sources to use in your yearbook, always be aware of copyright as it applies to your book.  If copyright laws are violated, your yearbook team and school administration could be held liable.  So, this is an issue that can escalate quickly and needs to be taken seriously. Copyright law infringement can result in lawsuits and other penalties.

Intellectual Property (IP)

Copyright laws exist to protect an individual’s right to his own intellectual property. And that, actually, is a good thing. Copyright laws were designed to inspire and protect artists and their activity while providing an avenue for public use and enjoyment. Copyright laws are not that difficult to abide by, so don’t fret.

Get Permission

One of the first things you should do with your yearbook project is to identify images and wording that might require copyright permission. Figure out what you want to use and start the process of asking for permission. Most of the time, thanks to the digital age, you should get a response in a short period of time. But, in some cases, it could take weeks or months to get a response. Obviously, you cannot have your yearbook production slowed or stalled by a copyright issue, so work on it as early as you can.

There are some issues that you need to be careful with in regards to your content. Watch-out for photos that come from magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. Rest assured that these people will know that you are using their images. Photographs of famous people are usually protected by the person that took the picture. In that case, you definitely need permission to use the photo and might need to pay a small fee to use it. Cartoon characters are also protected as are magazine photos. Logos, too, are protected and you’ll need permission to use them. Other protected things to be mindful of include movie and TV characters, song lyrics, and art images. When in doubt, ask. Don’t assume you can use anything!

Things You Can Probably use Without Permission

What are some things that you can probably use without seeking permission? Short quotes from movies, books, songs, etc. You can use commonly known phrases, idioms or clichés. You should also be okay with titles, phrases, procedures, processes and work of the United States government.  If you're looking for additional images, we've put together a list of our favorite stock photo sites for free, non-copyrighted images below.  You can also utilize the Google Image search tool and choose Filter by Usage Rights.  Of course, it's always best to check with the original source!

Our favorite free stock photo sites: