I have a question about legal usage of stock photos which also applies to photos with attribution.

If photo is royalty-free and requires one-time purchase, can I take picture with camera of my screen and use it without paying for it?

If stock and non-stock photo was taken from certain website and had title added to it, does that make it legit to use it?

  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about seeking justification for illegal and immoral actions.
    – jwenting
    Jun 17 '14 at 10:45
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about photography Jun 17 '14 at 11:35
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    This is a legal question, however its answer is something I think is blazingly obvious in every sense of the word.
    – John Cavan
    Jun 17 '14 at 13:09

Even if it wasn't illegal in pretty much every legal jurisdiction in the world (maybe with the exception of the countries that are currently in a state of semi-anarchy), it is certainly a moral issue. The reason that people are charging for these photos is that they have almost certainly put a lot of time, effort and monetary investment into the creation of these images and so want something back for the effort they have put in. This something is the money that you pay that allows these photographers to spend more time making th pictures that you so desperately want to use.

In Short, If you want to use it:

Pay for it!

Or else, (as has already been mentioned) use images that are in the Public Domain or licensed under Creative Commons (or similar). And remember to correctly attribute them. For some images this will be nothing at all, but for many you are required to have attribution (these will generally use one of the Creative Commons licenses, some of which have restrictions on what they can be used for). However, if there is any doubt about it, use a proper and full attribution.

Or, even better, go and take your own images that are inspired by the images that you have seen, then there will be absolutely NO issues of copyright, as long as you have used your own skill to create the images.

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    One minor comment: if the images are truly in the public domain, they don't need attribution.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jun 16 '14 at 12:19
  • And what about stock pictures that are also free (no one-time fee) and non-stock images that are free and don't require attribution? Is there such a thing?
    – Boris_yo
    Jun 16 '14 at 14:34
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    @philipkendall even if they do not require attribution you should still attribute them if possible to acknowledge the creator Jun 17 '14 at 4:37
  • @damnedtruths I think that depends quite a lot on why the photo is in the public domain. If I put a photo in the public domain, it's because I don't want people to have to worry about attribution or anything else (if I wanted that, it would be CC-BY). For photos in the public domain because they're old, I agree it's polite.
    – Philip Kendall
    Jun 17 '14 at 8:17
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    Because we are juggling legal terms here, a few pointers: CC-licenced works are not in the public domain, pretty much by definition as public domain implies giving up all claims to the work. Also, not every place on earth has a concept of "public domain". For example, you literally can not release a work into the public domain. The concept does not exist. You are, however, free to grant free usage rights to a mostly-similar effect. But authorship of a work is inalienable in German right. (Technicalities, in most usages, but can come back to haunt.)
    – Cornelius
    Jun 17 '14 at 17:46

If photo is royalty-free and requires one-time purchase, can I take picture with camera of my screen and use it without paying for it?


If stock and non-stock photo was taken from certain website and had title added to it, does that make it legit to use it?


  • As far as I'm concerned this is the most appropriate answer here. Let's not try to muddy the issue more than necessary, the answer is just a simple, flat out no. Jun 19 '14 at 12:42

No, of course you can't do those things. Taking a photograph of your screen is making a copy, just like using a copy machine or a scanner would be. Pay the price, or use public domain or Creative Commons imagery.

If someone else's work happens to be in some portion of your photograph but only incidentally, you may be able to argue fair use (or possibly assume it in some jurisdictions). But if you are simply using your camera to make a reproduction — this is a clear-cut no.

If a photo has a visible title, watermark, or copyright notice, that isn't a license to make a reproduction. It is simply an indication that the rights-holder doesn't want that detached from the photo. If anything, it's a stronger indication that you shouldn't do what you are proposing — but, don't get the idea that a lack of these things is any sort of permission either.


A royalty free image with a one time purchase means that the person purchasing it is granted the rights to reuse and distribute the image as much as THEY want. It is not giving rights to everyone who they distribute it to to then redistribute it.

With royalty free images, you don't have the copyright to the image, you only have a right to redistribute and you can't transfer that right to any other party unless the license agreement specifically allows it to be transferred (and in that case, likely only transferred to one person.)

Thus, having a copy of a royalty free image does not allow you to reproduce it unless you also have the right to redistribute, which is what you purchase.

If you want images that do not require a fee, you can look for open images or public domain images. Open images are images licensed for free use, such as through a Creative Common's license. There are still license requirements on what you can do, such as requiring non-commercial use or requiring attribution, but you can use such images freely as they are being licensed for free use.

Public Domain images are images which have either been released from copyright or on which the copyright has expired. These images can generally be used in any way shape or form as there is no rights holder to the image anymore, though public domain law may vary some in your jurisdiction, so it is good to check if things like attribution are still required.

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