Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana merchandise on eBay

The name of the latest addition to the Royal Family, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge to give her full title, was announced today to be Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Congratulations to the Cambridges on their new daughter.

Within hours eBay is full of mugs, photos, pillows, fridge magnets, and all manner of merchandise commemorating the Royal birth. Whatever your views of the Royal Family it’s indisputable that many people in the country and around the world will be eager to purchase a souvenir, if only in the hope that one day it might attain a monetary value, although in the past that’s been proven doubtful.

Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

If you’re one of the people flogging some souvenir merchandise, a word of warning. If you’re not using your own images then the chances are high that you’re abusing someone else’s copyright. Of course some reputable sellers may have paid to use the images, but it’s a pretty fair assumption (especially on a Bank Holiday) that most haven’t.

Copyright issues

The legal position governing the use, for commercial purposes, of images of Members of the Royal Family on articles for sale is quite liberal… “The Lord Chamberlain’s Office will not generally seek to oppose the use of images of Members of the Royal Family on certain articles which are for sale, providing they are of a permanent kind, free from advertisement, in good taste, carry no implication that the firm concerned has received Royal Custom or approval, and are not in contravention of any trademark or copyright“.

That all sounds pretty good, apart from the last 10 words, do you own the copyright to the images you’re using or do they belong to someone else?

A quick glance at the eBay listings and the images all appear to have been grabbed from newspaper websites or Royal Websites announcing the birth. These images are all owned by the photographers that shot them, or the company that they’re employed by or sold them to. If you’re using them without paying for them then you could be sued.

Even if you nicked the photos from a Royal website the photos are still under copyright, for instance the website carries the warning “Copyright in all photographs on the site belongs to the Press Association unless otherwise stated“.

Ultimately the only way to ensure you can’t be sued is to use photographs you’ve shot yourself or photographs you’ve for which you’ve paid to use for commercial purposes. Anything else is illegal so if you’re thinking of buying some commemorative merchandise spend a bit more and buy something using properly licensed images.