Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

How is digital signage affected by copyright law?

Digital signage is a great way to attract people to your business. It is a great promotional or information tool but it is vital that it is used correctly to avoid getting into hot water.

As many people in charge of setting up digital signage displays are not skilled graphic designers or photographers, it is often tempting to take a few shortcuts. You may have an idea of how you want your creation to look, and a quick search on Google will probably result in you finding the ideal image. This might seem like the perfect solution, but it is actually far from it.

By downloading the image you have chosen to use in your digital signage, you could be in breach of the law. It is highly likely that the image you selected is actually copyright protected which could cost you both money and reputation.

Choosing the right images

It is possible to use copyright protected images in your digital signage, but this would require the express permission of the copyright holder and, you will usually be required to pay a fee and attribute the image to the owner.

If you are using an image that you have created yourself and is an original idea, then you are free to use it as you please as you own the copyright.

If, however, the image you intend to use was not created by you, then you need to consider how you will be using it. If it will be taking a non-profit or educational route and will be used sparingly, then you are possibly safe to use the image. The same is true if you are transforming or repurposing the image in a way that is unrecognisable from the original.

If the image is intended for commercial use and is in the public domain as the owner released their rights to the image, such as the images available from stock photo companies, then you can use the image. However, if it is not in the public domain in this way, you may be required to purchase the image or obtain permission from the original source.

It is unethical to use someone else’s image without their permission or without the image being made freely available, and this use would be considered illegal.

Social Media

The laws surrounding images posted to social media are less clear. If an image has been uploaded to a site such as Facebook or Instagram, or has been included in a blog, it is generally considered to be socially acceptable to redistribute it. This is because it was always intended to be publicly viewed.

Nonetheless, you still need to consider how you intend to use such an image. If the creator did not intend for the image to be for public consumption, it is unethical for you to redistribute it. If you decide to post an image online where you have not cited the original source, it can be considered a form of plagiarism.

If you are still unsure as to whether you can use the image, you have found, you should seek permission from the copyright owner.

Author: Richard Murton

Display Technology

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 1st November 2017
(Last updated 7th May 2021)