Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II: A primer on royal imagery

20 Sep 2022 , 4:37pm

Freeths partner Iona Silverman reminds users about restrictions and proper copyright clearance for the late Queen and members of the royal family.

As a nation, we will be spending time reflecting on the late Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy and thanking her for all that she has done for our country.

As many businesses rightly want to commemorate the Queen’s life by sharing photographs of her in window displays and on social media, we set out a reminder of what you need to consider when using these images.

When using photographs of members of the royal family, there are two main considerations:

1. Restrictions issued by the Lord Chamberlain’s office; and

2. Copyright in the image.

Restrictions on use of images of the royal family issued by the Lord Chamberlain’s office

The usual rules on the use of images of royal family members were temporarily relaxed, up to and including the date of the funeral, to allow organisations and manufacturers to mark the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Approved images of the Queen could therefore be used on certain souvenirs or decorative and commemorative materials. “Decorative and commemorative materials” specifically includes displays online via an organisation’s website or social media.

The guidance states that the souvenirs or materials should be identified by the incorporation of a phrase such as: “Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022”, or regional variations. The wording “such as” suggests that it is not necessary to use that specific wording, but that the use should clearly be commemorative in nature.

The material must be in good taste, free from any form of advertisement and must carry no implication of royal custom or approval.

Note also that you are not permitted to use the royal standard, royal arms, crown etc. in any posts, nor any images of other members of the royal family.

For more details, please see the Lord Chamberlain’s guidance: Guidance on the use of Royal Arms, names and images Guidelines for the use of Royal Devices to mark the demise of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Copyright in the photo

The guidance issued by the Lord Chamberlain’s office is clear that any question of copyright involved in the reproduction of a royal image must be settled directly with the copyright holder. All photos are protected by copyright, which is generally owned by the photographer.

In addition to adhering to the Lord Chamberlain’s guidance, if you use an image of the Queen you need to obtain consent either:

· from the copyright holder directly; or

· by sourcing the image from a photo library which grants the right to use the image commercially.

Commemorative use of an image by a business is still commercial use. If you have not received permission from the rightsholder, your use will infringe copyright -- meaning the copyright holder could claim payment of a reasonable licence fee.

Freeths partner Iona Silverman is a member of the firm’s IP & Media team with particular experience in copyright and advertising and marketing law. She can be reached at iona.silverman@freeths.co.uk.