The creator of an image may choose to allow a person or organisation to license the work on their behalf, license the copyright directly themselves, or assign the copyright to another person. There are exceptions when a licence may not be required (i.e. the copyright has expired, or the image is being used for education or teaching, or if the image is available under a free to use licence). Further examples can be found on the GOV.UK website.
In the UK, copyright in images lasts for the life of the creator plus 70-years from the end of the calendar year of their death although the length of the copyright period will depend on when the image was created. That means that images less than 70-years old are still in copyright, and older ones may well be, depending on when the creator died. The copyright symbol does not have to be present for copyright to exist, so just because there is no name or copyright symbol associated with a photo or image does not mean the image is not protected by copyright.
Some businesses provide copyright compliance services to third party content owners, by scraping the internet looking for unlicensed pictures on behalf of its clients; upon locating “unauthorised” use of its clients’ images it approaches the user demanding a penalty payment.
We are aware some have approached a number of RYA affiliated clubs in relation to the use by clubs of imagery demanding substantial payments for the unauthorised use.
If you are approached by a company we suggest you contact the Legal team for assistance via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.