The Importance of Permission: Copyright, Commercial Use, and Intellectual Property


In today’s digital age, the ease of sharing and accessing images has grown exponentially. However, with this convenience comes a responsibility to understand and respect the intellectual property rights of creators. Using someone else’s images without their permission can lead to legal consequences, including copyright infringement claims. One area of confusion often revolves around the concept of “commercial use.” In this article, we will explore why using anyone’s images without permission is not legal and clarify what commercial use truly means.

Copyright Basics

Copyright is a fundamental legal concept that protects the rights of creators, such as artists, photographers, and writers. In the United Kingdom and many other countries, the creator of an original work, including images, automatically holds the copyright to that work upon creation. This copyright grants the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display their work.

Why Using Anyone’s Images Without Permission Is Not Legal

  1. Exclusive Rights: Copyright law grants creators exclusive rights over their works. Using someone else’s images without their permission violates their right to control how their work is used, reproduced, and distributed.
  2. Ownership: When you create an image, you become the owner of that intellectual property. It is no different from owning physical property like a house or a car. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to use your belongings without permission, creators deserve the same respect for their intellectual property.
  3. Preservation of Value: For professional photographers and artists, their images are often their livelihood. Unauthorised use of their work can devalue their creations and impact their ability to make a living from their art.

Understanding Commercial Use

The term “commercial use” can be a source of confusion. It does not solely refer to selling physical products. Instead, commercial use broadly encompasses any use of copyrighted material for financial gain or profit. This includes:

  1. Selling Products: This is the most straightforward example of commercial use. If you use someone else’s images to create products for sale, such as merchandise or prints, without their permission, it is a clear violation of their copyright.
  2. Advertising and Marketing: Using copyrighted images in advertisements, promotional materials, or marketing campaigns for your business without permission is also considered commercial use.
  3. Website Monetisation: If you monetise a website or social media account by displaying ads or receiving payments for content that includes copyrighted images, it falls under commercial use.
  4. Paid Publications: Using copyrighted images in books, magazines, or other publications for which you charge readers constitutes commercial use.
  5. Commercial Art: If you create art that incorporates copyrighted images and sell it, even as a one-of-a-kind piece, it may still be considered commercial use.


In summary, using anyone’s images without their permission is not legal and can lead to copyright infringement issues. The concept of commercial use extends beyond just selling physical products; it encompasses any use of copyrighted material for financial gain or profit. Respecting intellectual property rights is essential in the digital age, not only to avoid legal trouble but also to foster creativity and innovation while supporting the livelihoods of creators.

If you wish to use someone else’s images for any purpose, it is crucial to seek their explicit permission or obtain the necessary licenses. Understanding and respecting copyright laws is a fundamental aspect of responsible digital citizenship and a vital step towards a fair and just creative community.

Abbie (220)

Site owner and painter of awesome oils and watercolours. Manager + on large art site

Married to Robin another artist and sculptor. We live with two Shepweiler's, two demented budgies and 3 fish

Wannabe author and hardcase treehugger. All opinions are my own.

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