Right of use

Copyright and portrait rights

Before using a photo in a communication message (outside and inside VU Amsterdam!), always check whether copyright and portrait rights have been arranged. You can find this information in image databases under the image characteristics/image description of the photo.

Of the images you download directly from the internet, user rights are difficult or impossible to trace. If you use those images, you run the risk of receiving a damage claim for using a photo without permission. That risk is high, a company like Getty Images is constantly searching for photos used without permission. If a photo is found, a hefty claim follows. You should therefore always have permission from the owner!


The owner/creator of the photo must give written permission for use. Without written permission, you may not copy, distribute or publish the photo. Image databases (paid) have agreements with the authors (photographers) on remuneration, term and right of use.

Portrait right

People depicted in the photo must have given permission to use the photo for communication purposes. In fact, you can’t just use a portrait; it is subject to portrait rights. Incidentally, a portrait does not just mean a photograph of a face. If someone is recognisable in the photo, the photo is a portrait, even if someone walks by, for example. This does not include a photograph of groups of students arriving on campus. The moment the photographer zooms in on this group and pictures students recognisably, they can again invoke portrait rights. The photographer should always be alert to this, which is why we work with models.

Copyright and portrait rights VU Toolbox

The VU Toolbox image database contains about 700 images that you can use freely, without having to ask permission. Both copyright and portrait rights are regulated.
Usage outside VU Amsterdam is not allowed, not even for private use.

It also contains about 5,000 images ‘with rights’. Before using these photos, please ask permission via the VU Designstudio. Before the photo can be used, permission must first be requested from the customer (faculty, service) for use for other VU purposes. In addition, portrait rights may not be regulated for all uses.

Copyright and portrait rights external image databases

Copyright is well regulated by image databases. Please note that portrait rights are not always regulated. Therefore, check with the image databases whether there is a ‘model release statement’. If there is no model release statement, you must first request this through the stock agency.

Editorial or commercial use external image databases

Almost every image database distinguishes between commercial use and editorial use of the image. Photos marked ‘Editorial use only’ cannot be used for commercial, corporate, promotional, advertising, publicity, or merchandising purposes.

Please note that training images and recruiting images fall under the category of commercial use.

Editorial photography is used only for descriptive purposes such as news reporting, discussion of current events or other human-interest topics (e.g., in a blog, textbook, newspaper or magazine article).

Commissioned photography

Copyright in commissioned photography

VU Designstudio has agreements with VU photographers about fees, what the photos may be used for and how long they may be used. If you hire a photographer yourself, make sure you make agreements about this.  

Portrait rights in commissioned photography

People/models who cooperate in a photo shoot must always give explicit permission by filling in a model release statement. This is how models give permission to be photographed and consent to the use of the photos. Such a statement is also filled in for portraits of staff/researchers/teachers. This is how the rights for the use of the photo are properly covered.


Photographs will be commissioned and supervised by a Communications & Marketing staff member. In addition, photography on campus always requires permission from the FCO Service Desk. More information on this and the FCO permission form can be found here. If photography is done indoors in specific, faculty-bound areas, permission is also required from the relevant user. The photographer/videographer must always carry this form printed out; security may ask for it.

Photo credits

  • Always include the name of the photographer/author.
  • Photo credits you mention for photos taken by VU photographers: /name photographer.
  • Photo credits you mention for photos purchased externally: image database/name photographer.
  • You can include these photo credits in your means of communication in various ways. You can add the photographer’s name to the colophon of a brochure. If there is no colophon, mention the photographer’s name in a photo caption under the image or in the running text next to the image.
  • Photo credits on vu.nl are mentioned by sending a list of photo credits to vu.nl@vu.nl. The names will then be included in the general web colophon.

For questions about the proper use of photos, contact the VU Designstudio.