“Can I use old yearbook photos in my book or on my blog?” NOPE!

“Can I use old yearbook photos in my book or on my blog?” NOPE!

Q –

Hi Angela,

I need 50 pictures from an old yearbook scanned to include in my book and on my blog. I am new at this book-writing business. Is there anything I need to know?


A –

I’m not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice. Please consult with an attorney with  your specific legal questions.

That said…

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, unfortunately, you can’t use yearbook photos without the written permission of each person who took each photo. Even if the yearbook wasn’t copyrighted, the rights to the photos still belong to each photographer. Also, in some cases, you would need to obtain permission from the people in the photos.

Even if the yearbook was copyrighted, and if you obtained permission from the school district to use the yearbook, they only own the rights to the entire compilation of the book. They don’t own the rights to the individual photographs.

I know there are companies online now that are scanning and re-publishing entire yearbooks (both online and off) after receiving copies of old ones from former students. In all likelihood, they are violating numerous copyrights. Think about it. The yearbook staff had a photographer (or more than one). Absent a work-for-hire contract, those photographers own the rights to those photos. Even if the school provided a contract to the student, they couldn’t legally sign it if they were underage. The parents would have been required to do so. It’s doubtful if many, or any, schools went to such lengths years or even decades ago. Also, all the rights to photos not taken by yearbook staff
also belong to the photographers, including those professional photographers taking senior and other class photos.

Old yearbook photographers could seriously get into the litigation business with all of the copyright infringement occurring through republishing of yearbooks and yearbook photos now.

So, my answer is no. Definitely do not use yearbook photos in your book unless:

1. The yearbook is in the public domain. Don’t assume it is! You must research it first.

2. You have contacted each individual photographer, and have obtained written permission to use each and every photo.

Please see additional information on this topic HERE.


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3 Responses to "“Can I use old yearbook photos in my book or on my blog?” NOPE!"

  1. writerleenda  August 14, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I would be the first to throw a mighty roar if someone takes my picture in the first place, and then watch me when I find out they published it. An international student was made to get off a bus for getting into people’s faces with the camera. (Don’t worry, it was daytime and there are buses all over).

    Technically we aren’t supposed to draw someone else’s drawing either. People just do not get it. Oh now I am off on another rant….

  2. Woodrow Wilson  August 9, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Possibly even more important, G.S. would need to get permission from each student pictured. Privacy issues can bite him even after jumping through the copyright issues.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  August 10, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Per the article, yes, in certain circumstances, permission must be given by those appearing on the photos, particularly those photos taken on private property. The laws vary greatly by country so diligent research and a consultation with an attorney are strongly recommended.

      Angela Hoy, Publisher