7 things you need to know about image licensing

By: Kjelti Kellough

Most people know they don’t have free range for stock photo use, but navigating the legal issues surrounding image licensing can leave you as cross-eyed as reading tax codes. And just like tax codes, there can be serious repercussions for transgressions, like, say, copying and pasting a random image from the Internet and using it on your site. Below are seven clarifications to help alleviate some of the confusion.

1. The difference between royalty-free and rights-managed

Royalty-free means you pay one fee for all use of that image allowed under the license, giving you an affordable way to use an asset in multiple projects or campaigns for one flat fee. Rights-managed licenses specify a time period for use and are desirable because of the ability to purchase the exclusive use of an image in a given territory or for a given purpose. But this isn’t to say royalty-free can’t provide unique content. Half of our royalty-free photos, illustrations, video, and audio files are available only from iStock and can’t be licensed from any other stock provider.

2. Editorial use only means…

The photo can’t be used for commercial purposes like advertising, marketing, or any promotional activities. This is because editorial photos feature images of people or things that have not been licensed for commercial use. But these images can be used in non-commercial settings, like newspaper articles, educational blogs, and magazines.

3. Evaluate whether you need a standard or extended license

Always read the restrictions included with your content purchase. For most purposes, a standard license is all you’ll need and covers most basic usage like the web display. If you want to do more with the image – for example, print it on a t-shirt you’re selling or use it in a wedding invitation template – you may need to purchase an extended license.

4. Don’t use models to imply endorsement

You cannot imply that a photograph’s subject is personally endorsing a product or depict the model in a “sensitive way” without a disclaimer. This could include expressly or by implication portraying the model as experiencing mental or physical health problems, substance abuse, criminal behavior, sexual activity, or preference.

5. You cannot transfer the rights to photos

No sub-licensing is allowed. You bought it, and it is licensed solely to you. If you’re an agency working on behalf of a client, be sure you license the image only for use on projects for that specific client.

6. Look for a legal guarantee

Look at the promises that your stock agency is making to you in the license agreement. The iStock Content License Agreement warrants that, provided you abide by the license you purchased, you won’t be held liable for IP, property, or privacy claims regarding the image covered by that license. In fact, iStock’s standard legal guarantee on all iStock files defends you and covers your expenses and damages up to $10,000 and $250,000 for Vetta collection files. Our extended legal guarantee covers you up to $250,000.

7. Magic number: 499,999

This is the number that many of our assets have as a “cut-off” point between standard and extended licenses. If you are going to reproduce the content or an element of the content 500,000 times or more, you will need to purchase an extended license.

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The information contained herein has been prepared in compliance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works. The articles/Images contained herein serve as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, educational, and research-as examples of activities that qualify as fair use. Undisputed Legal Inc. is a Process Service Agency and “Not A Law Firm” therefore the articles/images contained herein are for educational purposes only, and not intended as legal advice.

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