Bad (Re)Presentations

This time, we would like to address copyright violations (again) - but with a twist. While previous articles focussed on “Music, videos and the risk for CERN” or on software licences, the focus is now on using photos, music and images “found” on the Web for presentations, publications and web pages…


Just recently, a video produced for CERN and published on YouTube and Facebook used background music from a contemporary popular artist. However, the people responsible failed to obtain the appropriate permission to actually use that music. They thought that having bought it on iTunes was sufficient. But it was not: “buying” means you have the right to listen, but not the right for further distribution or re-publication. As a result, the videos were pulled from YouTube and Facebook.

Similarly, how many of us integrate graphics and images “found” on the Web into our presentations?  How many of us enhance our web pages with photos by third parties or use third party fonts? Should we? Graphics, images, photos and music files published on the Web still have an owner who can claim copyright fees when his or her work is re-used. That this material is accessible to you does not mean you have the right to copy and reuse it. This is the case for the aforementioned background music and for “shareware”, which can be used on trial but must eventually be paid for. Only “freeware” is really free. It can be quite embarrassing for you, and for the Organization, to be caught violating copyright. Not to mention the legal consequences which might follow.

In order to be sure, check if you do have the proper rights to use the material. If you do not, there are plenty of photo repositories (such as or where you can buy images, graphics and photos. It is just an investment of a few francs to be on the safe side. If you are really keen on using a particular photo, image or graphic, contact its author/owner for permission. At the very least, refer to the URL as the image source and for kudos. Reusing music, however, in web pages or publications is more difficult. We usually suggest avoiding this unless you are sure that the music is in the public domain and can be freely used. 

In addition, you are reminded that violating copyrights can put the reputation of the Organization at risk and thus constitutes a violation of the CERN Computing Rules. Please refrain from sharing music or videos purchased for your personal use. You do not usually have the right for further distribution. Respect licence conditions and copyrights of software packages, in particular those of software provided for professional use at CERN. And finally, take care when re-using photos and images “found” on the Web in presentations or on Web pages. There might be a usage fee attached to them.

For further information, please contact the Computer Security Team or check our website.

Access the entire collection of Computer Security articles here.

by Computer Security Team