In a letter circulated to all local RNLI stations in the UK and Ireland last month, RNLI senior management told volunteers to secure the written consent of photographers before reproducing their work.
“Before publishing online, in publications or to accompany news releases, it is essential that we establish who owns copyright and whether they are happy for the photograph to be used,” the circular stated.
”If permission to use a photo is granted, the photographer should be credited each time it is used.”
In the experience of marine photographer David Branigan, who is also a volunteer RNLI lifeboatman and RNLI media spokesman for his local station in Dublin, the charity agree standard licences with professional photographers and pay the going rate for reproduction.
Helen Stone, a photographer with wide experience of working for British charities says charities have to maintain a balance between a business and charity image.
“They can’t be seen to spend too much money on photography as they are a charity, but at the same time they have to promote themselves well with professional imagery. It’s a conflict of interest,” says Helen, adding “the charities I have worked for pay well and don’t exploit.”
At a time when almost all major UK charities are reliant on high-quality professional photographs to raise the profile of their campaigns, it is hoped that more charities will remind their eager volunteers of UK copyright law, and ensure that payment is always part of the conversation with photographers.
Founded in 1824, the RNLI is one of Britain’s oldest nation-wide charities. The RNLI saved 337 lives in 2008.
The slide show History of the RNLI can be seen on the RNLI web site.
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