Copyright in images arises automatically under UK copyright laws when a photograph or other image is created, provided that it is someone’s original intellectual creation (as opposed to purely computer-generated) and fulfils all the other criteria necessary for it to attract copyright protection. The image itself will constitute an artistic work, while any text accompanying it may be a literary work.
Photographs, illustrations and other images will generally be protected by copyright as artistic works. A user will usually need the permission of the copyright owner if they want to perform certain acts, such as copying the image or sharing it on the internet. Images in this context include: digital photos taken on mobile phones and digital cameras; images that were first generated on photographic film and any digital images created from them; and images such as diagrams and illustrations. The symbol © may be affixed to a piece of work to indicate that it is protected by copyright.
The first owner of copyright is usually the creator of the image (such as the photographer or artist), although there are some exceptions to this rule, such as where the image was created in the course of employment. Owning or possessing a physical copy of an image does not mean that you can use the image as you wish, as it does not make you the owner of copyright in the image. Often, the person using an image is not the original owner of copyright in it but is using it under licence or has bought the copyright. Many images seen on the internet are owned by picture libraries who have bought the copyright and then licensed it on to others for use in specific materials and for a set duration.