The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.
We’ve been asked a few questions recently about copyright on commercial images used on GOV.UK. And we’ve worked with colleagues at The National Archives to develop some basic guidelines, as follows.
Licences are forever
Any image you buy will be captured permanently by The National Archives - so you need to buy a license for perpetual use.
All government webpages are captured by The National Archives, who have responsibility for preserving the public record.
This means that all the words and pictures you publish will be permanently publicly viewable in archive form (Eg, remember Directgov?). Any commercial image license you buy needs to reflect this fact.
So if you use a commercial image on a GOV.UK domain - or in official publications published on the site - it needs to be:
Licensed for perpetual use
Attributed (either in metadata or on the destination page - see our guidelines here)
The point on attribution is particularly important because all govt content is available for re-use, unless stated otherwise - so failure to attribute an image could lead to multiple copyright violations.
Common mistakes and things to watch out for
As well as the above, if you go shopping at a commercial image library, you need to:
make sure you buy the digital rights (not just in print)
avoid paying for images based on the number of page impressions
Also, remember to apply these same principles when putting presentations together whether it's for an internal or external audience – copyright applies to the images you use then too.
What can you do instead?
Ways of avoiding these copyright issues - and paying for photo libraries - are to use:
creative commons (see this blogpost)
We’d like your feedback
The above standards seem fairly straightforward and sensible to us, and a pretty good way of protecting ourselves from potential legal action due to accidental misuse of copyrighted images.
They are designed to apply to any images used by central government, whether on the GOV.UK site or another domain.
We’re planning on taking these proposals to departmental GOV.UK leads next month - so please shout if there are any issues we’ve not thought of.