As a rule, images are protected by copyright

Images are protected by the Danish Copyright Act. Therefore you can normally only use images in e-learning if your educational institution has a Copydan Billedkunst (visual arts) agreement. Otherwise you need permission from the copyright holders.

What is protected under the Copyright Act?

The Copyright Act protects among others:

  • Photographs
  • Drawings
  • Paintings
  • Water colour paintings
  • Woodcuts
  • Engravings
  • Collages
  • Embroideries
  • And much more.

The Copyright Act also protects three-dimensional visual art, for example houses, ceramics, statues, sculptures, monuments etc.

Read more about copyright protection in Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner´s guide to copyright, chapter 3 (available in Danish only).

If an image depicts something which is a work of art in its own right – for example a painting, a house or a statue, you must respect the copyright of the actual image and the work of art it depicts if you want to use the image in an e-learning context. For example, if you want to use a photograph of a painting, you would as a general rule need to obtain permission from the photographer as well as the artist who has made the painting.

What about very old work?

Some material is so old that it is no longer subject to copyright protection.

Photographs which are the product of the photographer’s original and creative work, for example due to camera angle and lighting etc. are protected until 70 years after the year of the death of the creator. Photographs which are not the product of any creative work by the photographer are, however, only protected until 50 years after the time they were taken. Protected paintings, drawings and other visual works of art are protected until 70 years after the death of the creator.

If an image has been adapted in any creative way, the actual adaption will be subject to its own copyright protection which will be valid for 70 years after the death of the adaptor.

Read more in Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner’s guide to copyright, chapter 3, section H (pdf).

When can you use copyright protected images in e-learning without permission from the creator?

If your educational institution has an agreement with Copydan Billedkunst stipulating that teachers are allowed to use images in an e-learning context, you can use the work as defined in the agreement.

Read about your options at

Even though your educational institution does not have any agreement with Copydan Billedkunst so that you actually need permission to use images in your e-learning, Copydan Billedkunst can sometimes help you get the necessary permissions.

See how to contact Copydan Billedkunst at

According to section 24, subsection 3 of the Danish Copyright Act, you can use pictures of protected buildings without asking the architect. You can also use pictures of works of art that are on permanent display at public places, unless you do so commercially etc., without permission from the creator of the works in questions, as stipulated in section 24, subsection 2 of the Danish Copyright Act. However, you still need permission from the photographer.

Read more about section 24 of the Danish Copyyright Act in Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner’s guide to copyright, chapter 6.B.13.

What about images you have created yourself, for example your own photos?

As a rule, you can use them without permission because you own the copyright yourself.

However, if you are a teacher and have assigned the copyright to your own pictures or images to others, you may have a problem.
For example, if you in your capacity as a teacher have sold a picture to a stock picture agency, you can only use that picture for education purposes if it is compatible with the agreement you have with the agency.

Some vocational colleges have agreed with their teachers that the colleges must have a share of the copyright to the teachers’ teaching material. See Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner’s guide to copyright, chapter 7.K.3.b. Also see the article about copyright to teaching material, Ophavsret til undervisningsmateriale, at If a picture has been created by a teacher who has assigned part of his copyright to the picture to his educational institution, the teacher may be precluded from using the picture in accordance with his copyright if he or she gets a new job at another institution. It all depends on the content of the agreement with the first educational institution.

Images available via the Database Service for Schools in Denmark (SkoDa) and other online services

Sometimes your educational institution may already have permission, for example because it has an agreement with an online service offering users the use of protected images for e-learning purposes, for example the Database Service for Schools in Denmark (SkoDa). In this case the online service has ensured the necessary licences so that the users can use images in e-learning.

In some cases creators may have partially waived their rights

Some creators allow others to use their images without asking. For example, if a creator publishes an image on the Internet and announces that others are free to use it for non-commercial purposes, you can use it in e-learning without permission. Some creators publish their images on the Internet under a Creative Commons licence which is a disclaimer of rights to the effect that you can use the image without asking, subject to certain terms and conditions which you can read more about at

Read more about Creative Commons in Ophavsret for begyndere – a beginner’s guide to copyright , chapter 7, section J.

Where to apply for copyright permission if needed?

  • The creator(s) or, if they are dead, their heirs
  • If the images you want to use have been published by any publishers, you will normally need their permission too.
  • If you want to use a photograph from a picture agency, you need the picture agency’s permission to use the photograph for e-learning purposes. The agency will normally have the necessary agreements with the photographer, so you do not need his permission. If what is depicted in the photograph is a protected work per se, for example a statue or a painting, it is normally up to you to obtain permission from the copyright holders of this work.
  • If you want to use photographs that have been published in newspapers, you will – dependent on the agreement entered between the photographer and the newspaper – sometimes have to get permission from the photographer, sometimes from the newspaper and sometimes both. The easiest way is to contact the newspaper and hope they know who is in change of granting permission.

I’m only going to use the images in a closed group forum. Surely that is private and all OK?

No. If the material you are going to use in e-learning is protected by copyright, you normally need permission to use it for e-learning purposes unless you are in a position where you do not need permission. This is how it normally works, even though you just place the material in a closed group forum.

Is it legal to link to copyrighted images in e-learning contexts?

Read about linking in the article on linking here at

What about pictures of persons?

If you want to use pictures that portray persons, you sometimes need the permission of the person the picture is portraying before using it for e-learning purposes. This is because of the rules and regulations of the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data.

According to the Danish Data Protection Agency you will normally need consent if it is a portrait, not if it is a picture of a general situation.

Read more at the Danish Data Protection Agency’s website, Billeder på internettet.

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