By Liz Jenei
I’ve had a lot of experience with purchasing stock images, and for those who haven’t, rights and regulations may not even come to mind when you are in need of an image (photograph, vector image or illustration) on your website, blog, social media post or for an advertisement.
In this post, I will share with you some key terms to know regarding stock photos—what they mean and how to avoid a law suit.
Royalty Free (FR) Images
A royalty free image is one that you can use as many times as you want, for as long as you want under the company in which it is licensed. For example, if you knew you were going to be running a couple of ads using the same tree with different clients—you could license a Royalty Free image of a tree to your company and use it on any client you wish, because the work being produced for all of the clients is done through your company. When using this route, it’s most cost-efficient to start a Royalty Free image folder on your company server so you can use those images whenever you need to for any client at no additional cost. If you are working with a client that wants to hold the rights to the image, then you will have to license the image to that client specifically and can only use the image for that client’s ads. You should also save a copy of the email indicating that the image is royalty free in the event that an intellectual property dispute arises in the future.
A few great stock photography houses from which you can lease Royalty Free images are: istock.com, shutterstock.com.
Rights Managed (RM) Images
A Rights Managed image is one which you essentially rent for a certain amount of time. When you license a Rights Managed image through a stock image company such as Getty, or Corbis, you will be prompted with questions such as: How long will the image be visible? What type of ad will it be (email, website, direct mail piece)? If the image is used on a website – will the image be on the homepage of the website? For how long will the image be visible? If the image is running in a magazine, what is the circulation of that magazine? What states or countries will the ad be running in? All of these answers will factor into the price of the image and if it can even be licensed. When an image is up for rights renewal, you can then negotiate a new license, extending your rights to use the image or you can decide to discontinue using the image.
Rights Managed images also have the option of paying for exclusivity, which means only the company in which the image is licensed to has the rights to use the image during that license. Also with Rights Managed images, there is the option to buy an image out completely, owning exclusive rights forever on that image. There are two great options when rebranding a company, especially so a competitor doesn’t use the same image on their website or in an advertisement—and it may be less expensive to purchase an image as opposed to producing stock imagery – but that is not always the case.
Where Rights Managed and Royalty Free Image Use Gets Tricky
When it comes to Royalty Free images—a good rule of thumb is any still life images (i.e.—no people or places) are good to purchase and use without worrying about liability issues as long as you purchase from a stock photography company, then license and use the image properly. Most images from stock houses are coded, and all day they have computer software scanning the Internet for illegal use of their images.
Where you do have to be particularly cautious, especially when using Royalty Free images, is any image with models or places in the photo. If the image has either, it is imperative that you ensure that the image you purchased has a signed model release form, which means the model has both agreed to be in that photo, and that he has signed his rights in the image to the stock house where it is for sale. If the image does not have signed model release information available on the site after some research, reach out to the company before purchasing and ask if they have one on file. This is especially important if you are using a photograph of a celebrity. The only instance where you can get away with not having a signed model release is if the shot is only of a body part (i.e., a foot or a hand) or if there is crowd of people, especially if the shot is from the back and no faces are able to be identified.
This rule also goes for locations. If you want to use an image of the Big Ben Clock Tower, you might have to get special clearances – reaching out to the image provider can generally give you the correct information when it comes to landmarks or cities. If it’s a cityscape, including a bunch of identifiable buildings, you are covered, but if it is a shot of one identifiable building, it is always best to double check with the image provider. Checking clearances is also important when using a picture of a house. It is important to obtain a signed property release form from the owner before using an image of someone’s property because if you use it without getting that proper paperwork, chances are that there could be a lawsuit.Just because an image is on a stock photo website does not mean it has a signed property or model release form, so making a quick phone call or shooting an email to customer service before using either a person or a place can end up saving you from a lawsuit or fine.
Have you checked your image rights lately?
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