Ethics in Media Use: Catholics are NOT Excused from Licensing, Copyright

As a Catholic who's worked in many different media fields (newspapers, photography, video production, and web development), I've seen a very wide array of copyright violations, improper media usage, and misuse of licensed assets. This seems to happen more in the non-profit world, where there is little or no budget for acquiring stock images, etc.

I'm extremely generous with my licensing for photos and other media I produce; typically, if someone asks to use a photo of mine, I'll send them a full-resolution JPEG and a license that allows them to use it for any non-profit cause.

However, what really gets under my skin is when I find my photos (especially) used in YouTube videos, for articles, and on posters, when I have never even been asked for permission, and when the photos clearly have 'All rights reserved' or some form of Creative Commons license.

Priest at Prayer
The lifted photo.

Today, on Facebook, I noticed that 'Catholic Church' posted a video on YouTube about vocations (titled Life rooted in God...), and I know the first photo used in that video (a photo of now-Bishop Rice) was used without permission, and I'm pretty sure many of the other photos were, as well.

What the producers of these videos and other media don't realize is that:

  1. It took me a long time to produce that photo (getting some time in Msgr. Rice's schedule, gathering the equipment, setting up the equipment, taking some 20-40 photos, processing said photos, and retouching the final photo).
  2. It required the use of over $2,000 of photography equipment (taking professional-quality photos is not free, and isn't done on one's mobile phone).
  3. Msgr. Rice never signed a photo release to allow the use of his photo in any videos (so, I could not have even given permission for this photo to be used in a public YouTube video).

Please, please, PLEASE try to always ask permission to use any photos, videos, sounds, music, etc. that is not in the public domain. Please respect the media owners' licensing restrictions and copyright.

In the end, don't steal other people's work, even if it's for a good cause. The ends, in Catholic morality, never justify the means!


Amen, Jeff! Another issue I often is see is the use of images of children without the prior approval from parents. This is often done by parish youth groups or campus ministry individuals. It only takes on litigious parent to really remind a diocese or youth office that the Church is also held to professional standards. Although the Church's budgets and personnel are spread very thin, it really pays (or rather saves) for a diocese or parish to invest in a professional media or advertising agency to consult if not manage these marketing and legal issues. I pray that dioceses are beginning to see untrained personnel posting images without licenses, rights or model waivers as liabilities. The Church must, out of charity for those She is called to serve as well as out of prudence for proper stewardship of funds, take necessary action to educate personnel on these standards or to outsource the responsibility to those who know the business.

Amen, brother. I repeatedly remind my staff that we have to use appropriate images (copyright-wise) .. Some people don't realize a copyright applies to popular devotional images like the Divine Mercy image, for example.

I keep having to re-link to this article time and time again, most of the time because I find yet another group using this image of Eucharistic Adoration without permission. This time, it was the english Facebook page; you'd think a news organization would know better!

Like I said above, these pictures take a lot of time, effort, and money to produce, and if there are people in the pictures, these people don't usually give permission to have their likeness used anywhere and everywhere. Please respect that!

Ver good comments Jeff. I would suggest you should send 'em an invoice, for having used it without permission, and if they opt to not pay, then issue an immediate take-down request.

And I'd be you're right, all those other photos in the video are probably stolen, too. Regardless of the message being shared, theft is theft, and using copyrighted material without permission is theft.

Here's a very nice guide to copyright as it pertains to photographs, for the good folks over at PhotoShelter:…

Thanks for the info, Sid! I'm definitely considering at least sending a small invoice, to get the point across. I'm not too angry about their use of the image, just that they didn't think to ask before using it :)