English Heritage claims it owns every single image of Stonehenge, ever

SteveMars sez, "Every photo image library got this by email today. 'We are sending you an email regarding images of Stonehenge in your fotoLibra website. Please be aware that any images of Stonehenge can not be used for any commercial interest, all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage.' Here is one image library's response:"
It's kind of them to think of us, but this raises a number of questions.

Firstly, what legitimacy do they have for this claim? Is there any law that states that it is illegal to use images of Stonehenge for any commercial interest? Can someone direct me to it?

Secondly, if an image of Stonehenge is so used, how could they possibly police the usage? A quick browse through a number of rights-managed and royalty-free online picture libraries produced the following:

iStockPhoto (a US owned company) has 513 images of Stonehenge
Fotolia (US) has 648 images of Stonehenge
Dreamstime (US) has 670 images of Stonehenge
Shutterstock (US) has 737 images of Stonehenge

All the above sites sell images on a royalty free, unrestricted usage basis. If anyone buys a royalty free image from one of these suppliers then he'll be using it as, where and when he likes, without asking English Heritage's permission. How will they stop that?

Stonewalling Stonehenge (Thanks, SteveMars, via Submitterator!)


    1. I am an attorney currently seeking class action certification for all zombie and/or ghost druids in an action against English Heritage for copyright infringement and Jesus for tortious interference with pagan awesomeness. If you are a member of this class, please contact me at 555-5555.

  1. I like how ‘Transvestite had sex with dog in English castle moat’ is a somehow-related previous post.

  2. Am I wrong for not being against this policy?

    I mean I’m happy to see people taking pictures of Stone Henge but the idea that people are profiting from pictures of Stone Henge without helping with the upkeep of a historical site are in the wrong.

    IMO everybody should be allowed to take or exchange pictures of Stone Henge for free but if there is a monetary incentive involved some money going towards the upkeep of the site would be good.

    1. But English Heritage is funded by the Government via DCMS. I thought the whole point of providing public money to the upkeep of such sites is that they would continue to be owned by the public. If English Heritage are going to claim some sort of copyright over Stonehenge they might as well just be a private enterprise.

    2. Yes, you are wrong.

      How dare anybody profit from any photo depicting anything that they are not financially supporting!!!

      I assume you’ll be looking through all your snaps and cutting checks for every building, every park, every street and statue you’ve ever photographed.

      Did English Heritage build StoneHenge? No? Well, then, why do you think they should get money for photos? And even if they had, why should they get money for photos? Is the design somehow copyrightable?

      Just for comparison I also think it is wrong that the Pebble Beach Corporation claimed trademark on the Lone Cypress and tries to squash commercial images of that tree. (IIRC)

      1. You clearly misunderstand the concept of profiting from something.

        Nobody is profiting from your home snaps. If your home snaps are used in an advertising campaign then actually there would need to be a lot of rights involved; the locations (in some cases) everyone in the photo etc etc.

        I’m not arguing for any side of the argument here, just pointing out that you clearly misunderstood his/her point.

    3. Whether or not you think it’s wrong doesn’t have much to do with whether it’s against the law. It’s simply not against the law to take and post a photo of Stonehenge.

      If you do indeed think it’s wrong, it’s up to you to convince others either a) not to take or post photos of Stonehenge and/or b) to advocate for legimate funding of Stonehenge’s upkeep.

    4. Technically, they’re profiting off the capture of photons reflected off Stonehenge. Those beams of light would have reflected off the structure whether a camera had been there or not, so there’s no way one can reasonably argue that it generates a maintenance burden.

      There’s a cost associated with maintaining access to the site, but they already charge you to get close to Stonehenge, so that argument goes out the window. Once you’re near the monument, anything you do with a camera remains your business.

      They have no sane reason to demand licensing images of Stonehenge. I expect every stock photo site on the internet to ignore the demands, and probably have a good chuckle about it over lunch.

    5. I’m all for supporting Stonehenge and English Heritage (I was a member when I lived in England). But this is insane. Stonehenge is a world cultural site and nobody has the right to control my photos of it.

    6. @3 no you are not wrong. Actually you have single handendly saved the greek economy. From now on Greece will charge for the use of any photo of the Acropolis and we will expand to photos of all old stuff that tourists like, including cute nannies and donkeys. Also cats and tits on greek beaches. And satyr dongs. Tho’ the dongs are expensive.

    7. Uh…. Yes, you are wrong. If we had to pay to use every picture of every interesting bit of sculpture, cave art, building, bridge, road, etc. Your basic history book would cost thousands.

      But more to the point, should we also make payments to India when we use pictures of their ancient buildings? To Iran? To China?

      At some point this idea that every picture must require a payment to someone just has to stop.

    8. Whatever. The fact is English Heritage has no such right, and they can’t create one by fiat, your opinion notwithstanding.

    9. You forget how much it costs to get to see Stonehenge, to take a good photo. Its not free, its extortionate.


    10. If that were right, then the same should apply to everywhere else in the world.
      Come on, that’s utterly ridiculous! how could I possibly be breaking any copyright!!

  3. Note to self: Go home, find that crappy-quality photo of Stonehenge you took from the parking lot through the mizzle, scan it in, and post it to Flickr. Just because.

    1. Mental image will fall under intellectual property so that will start a big commotion LOLZ XD

  4. I choose photos for a major media web site, and let me assure you, English Heritage is a goddamned pain in the ass.

    They mail you licenses ON A PIECE OF PAPER.

  5. I don’t think they’ll get far with it. In the UK you cannot have IP rights for depictions of anything “in the public domain”. Meaning you are free to photograph public statues, buildings that can be spotted from public areas. If English Heritage can prove that the stone henge stones only can be spotted if from land owned by them, and that they have put photography not allowed signs on that land, then they *might* have a case. Alternatively, they will have to wall them in somehow and again put up signs.
    I really doubt they even considered any this before they sent out the e-mail though.

    1. Perhaps they could erect a ring of very large stones around the site in order to prevent people from photographing it from outside of the land they control?

  6. I was taking a wonderful photograph of the Wiltshire plains. That stupid henge is just blocking a portion of my shot.

  7. This argument is actually invalid… I clearly stated last Thursday to several friends that it is, in fact, I who owns the rights to every single Stonehenge photo ever taken.

    1. Stood an the hill above after walking all the way from the south coast: what a bloody disappointment with all the emmets!

  8. next: Egyptian Heritage foundation claims ownership of every U.S. one dollar bill due to pyramid featured on the backside.

    1. I thought the copyright on Stonehenge had expired by now ;-P
      Seriously, the letter they sent out is extortion, and the are trying to extort libraries no less. I bet they are breaking some law trying to illegally assert rights to other peoples artistic images and photos.

      next: Egyptian Heritage foundation claims ownership of every U.S. one dollar bill due to pyramid featured on the backside.

      awesome. they better hurry though while it still has any value.

  9. This is just the beginning. Once English Heritage realizes that universal time is based on Greenwich they’re going to demand royalties for every clock too.

    1. “I own the word “English” so they will be getting a letter soon.”

      I am English, so clearly you owe me money for using the word. You’ll be getting a letter soon.


      And I too love that “Transvestite had sex with dog in English castle moat” is somehow related, but mentioning it is bound to bring a heap of mail demanding payments to the parties involved.

  10. I thought everyone knew that cameras, or ‘Photonic Rippers’, are used only to pirate and profit off the stolen reflected light.

    I guess stonehenge is one of those “No derivative works” things, though I didn’t know you could claim ownership on the output of a program, I mean, rock.

    Just coat it in some substance with 0 emissivity, that’s one hell of a ARM! We must fill this analog hole with senseless LAW!

  11. In order to preserve British history and protect it from the ravenous horde of so-called “photographers” that seek to degrade and demean an archaeological achievement like Stonehenge, the obvious course of action is for English Heritage get all of its sites classified under the Official Secrets Act, and then they can prosecute people for using images the images for *any* purpose.

  12. @redsquares, xzzy:

    I was thinking pretty much the same thing – quoting Ian M Banks State of the Art to myself. “They want to own the light!”

  13. I’m going to interpret “can not” in the notice to mean “it is possible for it to not”

    “Please be aware that that it is possible for any images of Stonehenge to not be used for any commercial interest.”

    I’m not sure what to do with that ‘must’ though.

  14. oh heck,
    why don’t we just start licensing all recording devices of any nature (starting with cameras of course). then we’d only have to apply for the appropriate permits to photograph an image or record a sound. after our recordings were passed by the official censors we could share the pictures and sound with whomever has official permission to view them. simple really….

  15. Derek Smalls: Can I raise a practical question at this point? Are we gonna do “Stonehenge” tomorrow?

    David St. Hubbins: *NO*, we’re not gonna fucking do “Stonehenge”!

  16. Can everyone who has ever taken a photo of the moon please send me a check for $3.50?

    I represent a league of people who hold the rights to the moon, and although I can’t provide you any actual indemnification from copyright liability to them, I’m happy to take your money.

  17. Taking a picture from the roadside, not owned by English Heritage as it’s a public byeway, means they cannot do anything about it.

    English Heritage are, in the classic English parlance, a bunch of wankers.

  18. Okay, some damage has already been done, but we can prevent any further infringement… Tear down that henge!

  19. It’s bad enough that they’ve put it behind a bloody chain link fence, charge admission, and then still don’t let you get within 20 meters of it. Now, they want to own every picture everyone has ever taken of it. Bollocks, I say.

    1. Really?!? You can’t walk up to the stones??? You can’t touch them??

      That sucks.

      How much does it cost to get in?

  20. If we don’t allow this, prehistoric people will retroactively stop building monuments. Then where will we be?

  21. Though I marvel at the balls it takes to send out this notice and expect anyone to take it seriously, I also have to wonder exactly how much money it takes for the “upkeep” of the site.

    Sure, the stones fall over now and then and have to be stood up again. And sure, there’s enough stuff there to busily occupy an army of archaeologists for the foreseeable future.

    But really, there aren’t exactly any moving parts. Not even a lot of human-caused friction, though I confess I touched when I was there, which makes me probably the 15 millionth sentient being to do so… bill me!

    If English Heritage is having trouble making ends meet, then maybe they should charge a couple more quid to visitors, perhaps have a special high-end rate for those who’d like to get closer.

    But claiming a monopoly on photographic images of the site? They gotta be kidding.

  22. Obviously they didn’t bother to research the law before they sent their email out. It’s simply ILLEGAL to do this.

    In the UK with the exception of indecent photographs/material, or ‘sensitive’ areas, people can take photos of whatever they like and do what they like with them including selling the image.

    Sometimes photographing people can be subject to certain harrassment laws, but not an inanimate object like stonehenge.

    Whether or not people should pay a little more to get closer to take photos is a different matter, and not one that I’m opposed to but to effectively claim ownership of every image taken is, well, its beyond words.

    English Herritage KISS MY A**!!!

  23. What an ironic reminder of the English Heritage of looting the archeological treasures of other countries for their museums.

  24. Secondly, if an image of Stonehenge is so used, how could they possibly police the usage?…If anyone buys a royalty free image from one of these suppliers then he’ll be using it as, where and when he likes, without asking English Heritage’s permission. How will they stop that?

    Irrelevant. The police can’t stop every jaywalker or murderer, but jaywalking and murder are still illegal. Not to say that English Heritage is in the right; but if they are wrong, it’s not for the above reasons.

    1. Its not IF thay are wrong – they ARE wrong. They are behaving illegally. Its that simple!

      I could take a photo of a celeb getting naked infront of a bedroom window and sell it. The only thing I could possably be prosicuted for is harrassment. I don’t think stonehenge could relly feel too harrassed though.

      English Herritage are totally, utterly and inarguably WRONG!!!

  25. Another attempt by someone who doesn’t own something to nonetheless try and assert ownership of it in order to make money. Forget it- if I take a picture of Stonehenge and want to resell it or use it commercially, I will. If I buy one and want to resell it or use it commercially, I will.

    You almost have to laugh when you wonder where it will end. The logical conclusion is for England to declare that any picture of any part of England is “theirs” and so royalties must be paid. The US will follow suit and declare that any image of anything on or above US soil is owned by the US Government, so royalties must be paid to them. And so on and so forth….

    I hereby declare my copyright on anything “circular”, so now you all have to pay me for each period at the end of every sentence you type. Also your bicycle wheels, donuts, and the corneas in your eyes. (A full list will follow.)

    1. Another attempt by someone who doesn’t own something to nonetheless try and assert ownership of it in order to make money.

      Trouble is, at some point someone might convince a legislative body to pass a law to make it so, or someone might convince a judge that they already do have the right. And then it’s just a matter of enforcement… sure, a case like this would be largely unenforceable, but even if only 1% of the “infringements” were shaken down and made to pay up, it’d be an appalling disgrace (as well as a fairly titanic windfall to English Heritage), and yet the legality of the issue might not be closely tied to the actual moral correctness of the issue.

      After all, back here in the States, a certain number of the “right” people decided in the Citizens United case to overturn a whole lot of long-standing campaign finance law, and surprised a great many people with the idea that corporations have First Amendment rights just like people do.

      One never knows when the law is gonna end up supporting a truly crackheaded idea. We Americans don’t quite have a monopoly on that.

  26. I own all rights to the sun…so any image with any natural light whatsoever will be getting a letter from me soon.

  27. Please be aware that any images of Stonehenge can not be used for any commercial interest, all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage.

    Way to go, English Heritage. This trainwreck of a sentence is as ugly as the tarmac footpath you built through the sacred ring. And FFS, do you guys really not understand the difference between a comma and a full stop?

  28. Well this may be a problem. I was preparing to self publish a set of images I did at Avebury, so I just had to write them and ask how I obtain ‘commercial’ rights.

    Of course if you dig around their web site there is no mention of the actual contact at EH for the rights:

    “photographs taken at English Heritage sites may not be exploited in any commercial context without the prior written consent of English Heritage. Please note too that photography at non-English Heritage sites may be subject to similar or different restrictions.”

    I found that terminology down the page here on their site:


    No doubt they don’t want much competition over the images they do control and sell here:


  29. Note that English Heritage is a non-departmental public body, funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, although run without direct interference by the government.

    Like all other NDPBs (and departments) it will have been told to make savings wherever possible, and find new sources of income. I’m 99% sure this is a result of that.

    The NDPB I work for is supposedly doing something similar: selling our scientific data wherever possible. Except I don’t know who will buy it — it’s available free online (on our website, and soon on data.gov.uk), or if you contact us.

    1. I see… But is there a chance that these new commercial ventures are carried out by third parties? The English Heritage mass e-mail sounds a bit like that new wave of cold callers demanding I pay money for the music I listen to in the office. Their companies always have different names so it seems like there is some kind of commission based enforcement.

  30. I have photos of Stonehenge in my facebook. Took it last year. No way I’m taking it down. We drove 4 hours from Aylesbury to get to Stonehenge, to see it and take photos. No where did we see a sign that said not to take photos of Stonehenge.

    Me at Stonehenge:

    My husband and I at Stonehenge:

    And LOADS MORE! For me, it’s personal photos that I’m sharing.

    It’s like saying, oh, you can’t take photos of Sydney Opera House or the Sydney Bridge.. it’s a bridge gone to far… lol!


    Cristina-Bozana Wilmot

  31. The person who took the picture of stone Stonehenge owe the right and not some freaked heritage BS.

  32. I think the erosion of photographer’s rights is happening across the globe.

    In Australia, I wanted to take some pictures of the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1131/) a few years ago. I was thinking of putting them up on a site a few of my friends and I were putting together of UNESCO sites – not unlike http://www.world-heritage-tour.org/.

    Out of courtesy, we rang the managers of the site to inform them of our intention to photograph. We promptly got a stern warning from the marketing director, if we took photos of the building and published them, we would be sued. His reasoning was that despite it being a public space, it was also required to generate an income and that our photography would harm their brand and the marketing potential of the site. He also claimed that the organisation owned the copyright to all depictions of the building and its surrounds, and that our photography would breach that copyright. We offered to pay money, but were informed that they had existing contracts with various media companies that prevented this.

    That kind of scared us off.

    @Cristina-Bozana Wilmot, you can’t take commercial pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/shfar2006502/



  33. Here is the answer, just take a picture of your picture, and make certain that people can tell that it is a photo of a photo, and tell the English to take a flying leap! Oh, go on, tell them that anyway!

  34. @ Jon. You are quite correct, however the authority in charge of the area does have jurisdiction over many popular vantage points – and you do need photography equipment to take photos. I am also only referring to commercial images – which the article also refers to.

    It does seem, however, that the primary concern of these organisations and photography rights is brand management. They do not want to be perceived as endorsing things that have not been vetted by them.

    Additonally, by maintaining restrictive photography permissions, they create an artificial scarcity of commercially available images, and can then demand higher fees for that permission. This gives them an additional income stream, from something that in effect costs nothing.

    An example of this brand management strategy can be seen in the letter from the Sydney Opera House’s corporate counsel:

    So, irrespective of whether you’re taking photos from a boat, or from far across the harbour, you will still receive a “takedown” letter in the mail from their friendly attorney.



  35. I wish you would remember that we are subjects of the Queen in the UK.
    It is a consession by the Her Majesties Government that we are allowed to copy some things.

    It is just that English Heritage (a QUANGO – part of the Government) have decided that we no longer have the right to duplicate our own photographs of Stonehenge without their permission – particularly if any money is involved.

    Actually with all the Government spending cuts they are probably desperate to find alternative revenues – expect more clamp downs.

  36. From Micky.
    Its the usual FAKE waffle from the e/h money grabbers.
    As for not being able to make money out of my pics of the henge.
    They can Get lost.
    E/h are NOT looking after Stonehenge they are robbing the people that go there and TOTALLY RUINING the peaceful enjoyment of the place by the public of this country and the tourists that visit.
    They cannot seem to understand that treating people as tourists in their OWN country is obnoxious and an insult.
    They also seem to have a problem with THINKING they own Stonehenge.

  37. Email from English Heritage…

    This document has been sent to you from:

    Ms R L McKellar
    English Heritage
    Customer Services
    Po Box 569
    SN2 2YP

    Document Precis:

    Dear Mr xxxxxx,

    Reference: xxxxxxxxx

    Thank you for your email regarding photography at Stonehenge.

    English Heritage looks after Stonehenge on behalf of the nation. But we do not control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge. And we have never tried to do so. We have no problem with photographers sharing images of Stonehenge on Flickr and similar not-for-profit image websites. We encourage visitors to the monument to take their own photographs.

    If a commercial photographer enters the land within our care with the intention of taking a photograph of the monument for financial gain, we ask that they pay a fee and abide by certain conditions. English Heritage is a non-profit making organisation and this fee helps preserve and protect Stonehenge for the benefit of future generations. The majority of commercial photographers respect this position and normally request permission in advance of visiting.

    I am sorry for any confusion caused by a recent email sent to a picture library.

    Yours sincerely

    Rae Mckellar
    Correspondence Team Manager

  38. Unfortunately there is a bit of ambiguity in that response. I’ve also asked them for a statement of their policy, and how one obtains their permission.

    1) ‘commercial photographer’
    2) with the ‘intention’ of taking
    3) for financial gain

    Since I had none of those ideas in mind, nor would I normally be considered ‘commercial’, theoretically I should be ok.

    But one has to recover costs when distributing work, and when any charge is made for the images, I would be willing to bet that EH wants a cut.

  39. The National Trust has a similar policy in place for their sites,

    “The National Trust does not permit photography or filming at its properties for commercial use or for reproduction in any form. Images taken at NT properties may not be submitted to photo libraries, agencies or on-line providers or provided directly to image buyers. Requests for access for commercial photography or filming should be directed to the Broadcast Media Liaison Officer (020 7799 4547) in the first instance..”


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