Which pictures may I post on social media?

It has never been so easy to take pictures and publish them. On platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, users can display their smartphone snapshots in just a few clicks for the world public. The stupid thing about it: they often violate applicable image rights.

“From a legal perspective, copyright infringement is almost the most common right-wing crime today, perhaps along with violations of the Highway Code,” says lawyer Till Kreutzer. He is co-founder of “iRights.info”, a portal that provides information on copyright in digital.

Social media patz in data information

What are often committed mistakes?

The most common violation of social media images is to publish them without consent. “The law says, every time I scan someone and post the photo on the Internet, I have to ask the person for permission beforehand, and virtually no one does that nowadays,” says Kreutzer.

Till Kreutzer

Attorney Till Kreutzer is co-founder of the copyright portal “iRights.info”.
Photo: Till Kreutzer

In addition to the violation of this right to privacy, copyright infringes many images, explains Stephan Dirks, specialist lawyer for copyright and media law. “This is often because people believe what they find freely on the Internet, they can save synonymous with a right-click and then re-upload somewhere.” But it requires the permission of the author.

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Is it possible to punish yourself by spreading posted pictures?

If you spread the photo, for example, using the sharing function of the respective platform, you usually have nothing to fear. It looks different when you download the photo and then post yourself. Then the author or other authorized persons have no control over it, so you need a license for it.


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Can I only photograph people and upload the photo if I asked everyone before?

No. “If there are hundreds of them in the picture and no people are clearly highlighted, then you can exceptionally,” explains Kreutzer. That’s true for demos. Every participant should expect to be photographed.


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Are there any special features when it comes to children?

Yes, because there must first be clarified, who may grant the permission at all. For children under the age of 14, both parents need to do that. This is often doomed to teachers. “Teachers are constantly breaking all kinds of regulations,” says Dirks. They would often be content with the permission of a parent and make themselves vulnerable.

Stephan Dirks

Stephan Dirks is a lawyer for copyright and media law.
Photo: David Schmitz

It does not get any easier from the age of 14: “It depends on whether the children are able to recognize the significance of this decision,” explains Kreutzer. If you do not want to risk any problems with photos of minors, you will get the consent of both parents if possible.

What is the difference between the law of the image and the law of the motif?

The right to one’s own image is the right of every human person to decide whether or not his image is reproduced in public. Time and again, however, the law is also the subject of the motive.

Motifs are mostly free in Germany, so it regulates the panorama freedom. “This is a rule that says that if you can photograph works of art or buildings that may be protected by copyright from the normal street space, then you can put these photos in any form on the Internet and spread,” says Kreutzer. In other countries, however, such regulations do not exist. Abroad, it may well be that motives are protected. In Germany, too, museums or churches can ban photos inside the buildings.

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Does it make a difference on which way I distribute the photos?

Yes. Because not all platforms spread images equally. While Facebook, Instagram or Twitter make it accessible to a more or less undefined public, pictures are sent to one or more people by messengers such as Whatsapp or Telegram – but the addressees are precisely defined. This is usually not considered as a publication or distribution, says Kreutzer. Therefore no consent is necessary.