Get permission to use images

The organisations on this page can help you get permission to use an image from the person who holds the copyright. This is often the person who has created the image – a photographer, artist or illustrator, for example. But it could be an agency or another person that legitimately represents the copyright holder and who can license images on their behalf.

Who to contact

Where to look for images you can use legally

The British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) has links and contact details for a wide range of image suppliers in the UK where you can search for images using keywords. Once you've found an image you want to use, you can acquire a licence that is tailored to your needs. 

Getty Images allows you to search its library for images using keywords. Once you’ve found an image you want to use, the licence you get will depend on how you want to use the image. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has a fee-paying, business-to-business service where you can find images protected by copyright from the organisation's library for editorial use in digital and print media.

If you want to reproduce the work of an artist you can contact various rights holder organisations, one of which is the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS). DACS represents over 70,000 visual artists and estates in the UK and overseas through its copyright licensing service. Certain members of the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) can also license works by an artist. 

Get a licence for an image you’ve found

If you’ve found an image, online or offline, you need to get permission from the copyright holder or pay for a licence before you use it – even if it isn’t immediately obvious who the copyright holder is. This includes images:

  • found on Google Images or downloaded from other web pages
  • shared on social networking sites
  • found in books, journals, articles, newspapers, magazines, photographs and postcards
  • you've taken a photograph of.

Search by Image is a new search tool powered by the PicScout Platform. It allows you to find out the copyright holder of an image, if it is owned by somebody who has signed up to the PicScout Platform. You simply upload the image you have found to see if it can be recognised. If it can, a link will be provided to where the image can be licensed.

If your organisation already has a blanket copyright licence (e.g from CLA or NLA media access), use of the image might, in some circumstances, be covered by the licence. For example, if you are using the image within your organisation, and not in external communications, your blanket licence is more likely to cover usage. You should always check with the organisation that issued the licence if you're not sure. Otherwise, there are tools and organisations that can help you to find the rights owner of an image you've found.

Use an image as part of a creative work

It's especially important to get permission if you're going to use an image in creative works that you intend to sell, for example if you are going to use an image:

  • on t-shirts or other printed merchandise (including books, magazines etc)
  • in an original piece of artwork
  • on a commercial website, in video games, tv programmes etc

If you've found the image, the best place to start looking for the rights holder is the person or organisation who published it.

Use an image at work or within your organisation

Using found images at work is common practice. They are often used in presentations, newsletters, intranets and websites. However, in most instances, you're not allowed to download images from search engines, blogs and websites, or scan images from printed materials and use them without the permission of the rights holder.

If after carrying out a “diligent search” you still can’t find out who the copyright holder is, the work you want to use may qualify as an orphan work, that is a work protected by copyright but whose copyright owner is unknown or cannot be found. You can find guidance on how orphan works can be used in the UK on CopyrightUser.org.

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