Copyrights Guide

Do all images have a copyright?

Major legislation to copyright law in 1976 and 1989 has made changes to the length of time copyright lasts on images. Images taken before 1976 may no longer be covered by copyright.

What if I don’t know who owns the image?

Photos and prints with no known owner or creator are considered “Orphan Works.” Currently, you are not legally allowed to use an image that is not yours even if it has no valid copyright information with it.

What is the Public Domain?

The Public Domain refers to any artwork/image/creation with no exclusive intellectual property rights. Whether those rights were waived, forfeited, or expired, the work is free for all uses.

Where can I find images that are in the Public Domain?

Images taken by or made for the US Government are in the public domain and you can find free, high-resolution images of the photos online. There are also a variety of websites offering free public domain images.

What about photos I find online?

Online images are still protected by copyright even if there is no © notice. You would still need to research the copyright associated with the image, whether found in person or online. Also, online images are usually very low resolution to make for easy web display but will look very blurry and pixilated if printed.

What is Creative Commons?

“Creative Commons” is a license found online that artists/photographers use to allow others certain rights to reproduce their images for specific purposes. Using images with a Creative Commons license always requires attribution to the original artist. For more information about the various licenses, please visit

What if the copyright owner is deceased?

Current copyright law has a term limit of 70 years past the owner’s death. However, some images created before 1989 may be available even if the owner is alive or recently deceased.

If I pay for the print, does the copyright still apply?

When you purchase a photo print, poster, post card or other printed image you are paying for license to have and display only that physical print. You do not have the legal right to scan and reproduce that image in any other form. If you want to make a copy of the image, you need to contact the original photographer or artist and ask for permission to do so.

What about stock photos?

Licensing stock photos online gives you certain rights to reproduce the image, depending on the terms and whether it is Royalty-Free or not. When purchasing, be sure to read the usage details of the license agreement to make sure what you plan to do does not violate copyright.

What if its only for my personal use?

The only reason you may use a copyrighted image without explicit permission falls within “Fair Use.” This refers to reproduction of a copyrighted work that is ‘fair’ and for the purpose of parody, criticism, comment, new reporting, education, scholarship and research. It also takes into account the potential market value of the use and the portion of the original work used.

What will happen to me if I print a copyrighted image?

Copyright infringement is an illegal offense. If you knowingly violate copyright by printing copyrighted photos for personal use, you are liable to pay damages to the copyright owner. If the image is registered with the copyright office, you may be required to pay statutory damages and all attorney fees. By ordering from PRKE and clicking the artwork disclaimer button, you accept responsibility for ensuring you have proper permission and license to reproduce the image.

How do I get permission?

Reach out to the person or company where you found the artwork to inquire about permission. Also, online works may contain information about permissions on their website

For more information regarding copyright laws and restrictions, please visit