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Images and Texts in Print Publications and Online Presentations

You require text and image materials for media relations and public relations work and the depiction of your working area in print products and on the Internet. In doing so, you need to comply with various legal aspects.

  • What do I need to keep in mind when using visual depictions and texts?
  • How can I find suitable photographs?

This section contains answers to the most frequently asked questions that may arise with regard to these issues in your day-to-day work.

Every person has a right to his or her own image. Likenesses cannot be shown or disseminated except with the consent of the person depicted.

Our Recommendation

  • Consent to use the photos for reporting on work and events at Freie Universität should be obtained expressly, if at all possible, preferably in writing.
  • For advertising purposes – such as informational brochures, event posters, or online presentations – express consent, generally in writing, is always required from the person depicted. For example, if a researcher is photographed for an edited article such as the Tagesspiegel supplement, the picture may not be used in another context such as for a brochure, unless further arrangements are made.
  • Before taking the photograph(s), have the subject sign a broadly worded declaration of consent or ask the relevant person about further use at a later date. Otherwise, the subject of the picture can prohibit the publication of his or her picture in a brochure.

  • Children and adolescents under 18 may only be photographed if the legal guardian(s) have agreed.

For general information on the subject, please contact the Office of News and Public Affairs. For specific legal advice, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

  • The Office of News and Public Affairs of Freie Universität has an extensive archive of images and is happy to provide individual images upon request.
  • Your outward image will seem more authentic if, instead of symbolic photos, you use pictures of your actual institution or the relevant scientists, researchers, and scholars involved and their research or the event in question. If you or your team colleagues do not have suitable photos, you can commission a photographer. The Office of News and Public Affairs will be happy is provide a contact list.
  • If there are no pictures available and you do not want to hire a photographer, you can search online databases of picture agencies for suitable images. There are various providers across different price segments. Well-known agencies include photocase, fotolia, istockphoto, or flickr.
  • You can also find free pictures that have been published under a so-called Creative Commons license through CC Search, the search engine of creativecommons.org.

When selecting and using images, be sure to observe the guidlelines under copyright and personal rights.

If you take your own pictures, you need to observe the subjects’ personal rights.

  • In a lecture hall (see “personal rights”), announce that you will be taking pictures and give people the opportunity to leave the room.
  • If you do not have their consent, the persons depicted must be rendered unrecognizable (e.g., by blurring, etc.).

  • Make an entry in the file information for archival purposes so that the author, image subject, and date of the photograph can also be viewed later.

  • Please obtain the consent of the persons depicted. Clarify in advance whether these photos can also be used for advertising purposes (brochures), online, or on social networks such as Facebook.

  • Even if you are using your own photographs, the photographer must be cited when they are published online or in print publications (even if you are using photographs from a private collection, the photographer’s consent and an attribution are required).

Always enter into photo agreements in writing. The contract should contain clear provisions on your rights and obligations as the buyer of the photos.

Our Recommendation

  • Clarify in advance what you wish the photos to convey, and then choose the image subjects.
  • Before any photo production, inform the persons who are to be depicted (see personal rights). Where applicable, obtain a written statement of consent, and in any event definitely obtain parental consent if minors are to be depicted.
  • All rights of use (if possible, exclusive ones) should rest with Freie Universität Berlin without any limitations in terms of time or physical area. In general, it is a good idea to secure the right to use the materials in connection with reporting on Freie Universität (print and online) as well. This allows you to provide the photos to third parties (media) even years later – citing the appropriate source, of course.

  • Those who acquire exclusive rights of use generally pay a little more, but save time, money, and effort in the long run. In the case of a non-exclusive right of use, you may have to pay again for an image that you had made for a certain brochure, or you may be barred from using it online and have to have new pictures taken.

Agreeing on Rights of Use

Arrange in advance with the photographer the desired credit line (copyright) and the rights of use (factual rights and those related to time and territory).


  • Am I permitted to use the photograph one time or multiple times?
  • For which areas is the use of the photos permitted – only in print products, or also in online media?
  • Am I permitted to store them in online archives?


  • For what geographic area are the rights of use being granted (throughout Germany or Europe, worldwide)? In the case of print products, the price is generally affected not only by the size of the print run, but also by the area where the publication is distributed.


  • Is there a time limit on the use of the materials?

If there are no pictures available and you do not want to hire a photographer, you can search online databases of picture agencies for suitable images. There are various providers across different price segments. Upon request the Office of News and Public Affairs can provide you with information.

  • Please be sure to observe the specific citation format required by the provider. The citation typically includes the agency name and the name of the photographer.
  • Clarify in advance whether online use is subject to special rules. The citation format for online use may vary from that used in print products. It may be necessary to link the source with the provider’s page.
  • In most cases, images purchased for print products can be used online as well for little or no extra charge. It is therefore recommended that this be clarified before you buy the images, with an eye to added value.
  • When working with most photo agencies, “credits” must be obtained first. These can also be ordered in exchange for presentation of an invoice.

Copyright-protected works may not be used without the consent of the copyright holder. The copyright holders can demand compensation, usually equal to the sum that a license would have cost, and possibly legal fees in addition. Copyright infringement can be costly! Anyone who uses a third-party photo is obligated to cite the author.

Copyrighted Images include the Following:

  • all photographs, photographic works, cinematographic works, application photos, or videos on youtube
  • works of fine and applied arts as well as drafts of such works (sculptures, paintings, collages, computer art)
  • Scientific or technical representations such as drawings, plans, maps, sketches, tables, and plastic representations)

The following are not permitted: a team photo taken in front of a painting or art print; reproductions of well-known advertising posters posted on the homepage of an institute; the screenshop of a map under "How to find us" on a conference website. Instead, we recommend integrating a map service such as GoogleMaps using the CMS template Einbindung externer Dienste.

Editing of Images

Works by other persons and entities cannot be edited arbitrarily or at will. If a photo is modified in such a way that the original statement of the image is also changed, this represents a violation of the copyrights of the photographer and of the personal rights of the persons depicted. As a basic principle, any desired changes to an image should be coordinated with the photographer and, where applicable, the persons depicted.

Our Recommendation

Clarify rights of use including the desired attribution, in writing if possible, before you use third-party works. If possible, clarify whether the photos used for advertising purposes or usage rights may be transferred to third parties (for example, cooperation partners, media, social media).

The photographer must be cited, even if you use your own photographs – photos you took yourself or photos from your own private collection.

How to Use Creative Commons Pictures

Even with photos and illustrations that were published under a Creative Commons license, as a rule at least the name of the photographer or author must be given in the credit line. Digital images are often provided with an invisible watermark and therefore searchable. Cases where due credit has not been given can be very costly for the university.

Creative Commons currently offers six different standard license agreements that can be used to distribute creative content. The mandatory information is usually the name of the author, the title of the work, the link to the work or the authors, as well as a reference to the license.

For Web Content Management Editors

For information about loading illustrations and photos in CMS, please refer to the CMS Online Manual.

Steps to Follow

  • When importing pictures into CMS, always enter the "Bildtitel" (description of the picture) in addition to the "Bildquelle / Image Credit" (name of the photographer). The websites of Freie Universität consistently publish the image credits. Omitting this information makes a copyright infringement visible.
  • For image sources that require one or more links (e.g., CC licenses), please enter the Bildtitel (image description). Please enter the name of the copyright holder as well as the required links in the text field "Bildquelle / Lizenz," where you may enter both text and one or more links.
  • Give folders and documents in CMS names that will make them easy to find both internally and via search engines. Short keywords should reflect the content. Separate individual terms with a hyphen or minus sign (-) and not with an underline (_).
  • For folder names (which later become part of the URL), use only lower-case letters. Do not use umlauts or ß.

For general information on the subject, please contact the Office of News and Public Affairs. For specific legal advice, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

Bildquellen-Nennung bei Teaserlisten auf www.fu-berlin.de

Image credit lines in teaser lists on www.fu-berlin.de
Image Credit: Freie Universität Berlin

For information about importing images and photos in the content management system, please refer to the CMS Online Handbook published here.

General Notes to Editors

  • Please always enter the title (image description) as well as the image source (photographer) for all imported images. In the central and decentral websites of Freie Universität, the image sources are displayed consistently. Not including this information would make a breach of copyright visible.
  • Name the images and all the other folders and documents in the content management system so that the files can be found easily and quickly both internally and through search engines. Short keywords should reflect the content.
  • Separate individual terms with a minus sign (-) and not with an underline (_).
  • When assigning a file name, always use lowercase characters and do not use umlauts or the German double S (ß).

Copyright-protected works may not be used without the consent of the author (or the beneficial owner). Otherwise, these parties may demand damages – typically in the amount that a license to use the work would have cost. They may also be able to demand attorneys’ fees. Copyright infringement can be costly!

Copyright Protection Applies to Various Works, including

  • literary works (poems, novels, books)
  • non-literary works (works of journalism, such as newspaper articles and online articles)
  • scholarly works (scholarly or scientific articles, dissertations, etc.)

Texts that are considered generally accessible common property are not protected, for example, official works (laws, regulations, announcements) or information and events (also including scientific and scholarly findings and discoveries such as formulas, but these items could, under certain circumstances, be protected by patents).

Our Recommendation

  • You may not post newspaper articles or reviews on your website as text or PDFs.
  • Good alternative: Insert a link to the article in question. However, keep in mind that media outlets generally do not keep content available on demand indefinitely. To keep viewers from receiving error messages, links to specific pieces should be reviewed regularly.
  • If possible, clarify rights in writing before using others' works.

Background: Copyright

Copyright protects personal intellectual creations. It arises and shall apply from the creation of a particular work. Texts and speeches, photos and movies, paintings, prints and drawings, as well as (city) maps or tables are all protected.