Schools using photo images downloaded from the internet on their websites are being warned they could face huge bills in unpaid copyright fees.
Images downloaded from the internet are protected by copyright
Picture agencies and photographers are increasingly using software which tracks their images.
Schools need to be aware of how legislation affects the use of images taken from the internet, says a UK copyright lawyer.
They could otherwise face demands for thousands of pounds.
School websites are elaborate and highly professional notice boards packed full of text and images with content usually provided by staff, students and parents.
But if schools are tempted to include material from other internet sites, without prior permission, they could face unexpected bills.
Photographers and photo agencies can now trace their pictures with the help of specially designed software which alert them when their material appears on the internet.
If the publisher has not gained prior permission to use their material, they are breaching copyright laws and may be asked to reimburse the owner.
Jean-Louise Green who runs Picture Nation picture library said: "The problem schools have is that while a lot of images are OK for them to use under the 'education' umbrella, when they out those images on their websites or swap lesson plans with those images in, they are facilitating the free re-distribution of those images and that is where the problems are occurring."
Copyright lawyer Linda Macpherson said there is a fairly common misconception that material can be freely copied if this is for educational purposes.
"A school that uses images taken from the internet on its own website will be infringing copyright unless the copyright owner consents.
"In theory, a school could end up with a large bill for using pictures from the internet without consent.
"The school could also end up in court if it refused to pay," she said.