Imagery plays a big part in our lives. It is a visual element that is incorporated in almost all forms of marketing, whether printed, online or within televised media. However for businesses of all scales, finding relevant imagery that can be used is difficult, especially when you take into account potential copyright issues in terms of image usage. Royalty free is just one of several forms of licence typically associated with images and far from being free to utilise, actually usually requires a single payment to use the desired image.
Below we discuss the various licence options and alternatives in terms of finding relevant imagery.
Images are used for a differing array of reasons including:
- Websites / other forms of online web presence, eg video
- Marketing / promotional materials
- Ebooks / printed books
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to source images to use for these mediums; what must be considered is whether you have the right to freely use these images without infringing copyright; that is where licences come in.
Image licences are in essence the terms and conditions for use of a particular image. The purpose of the licence is to protect the rights of the copyright owner of the image. Licences vary in their permissions in terms of what they can be used for, for example, whether the image can be used for commercial and / or non-commercial use, what time period they can be used for, how often and where they can be used.
It is essential to follow the licence conditions and permissions related to the particular image in question, to ensure that you incur no future legal issues in terms of copyright or image use infringement.
What Types of Image Licence are frequently available?
Royalty Free Licence
Royalty free refers to a form of licence that enables someone to use an image without paying royalties or licence fees whenever the image is used. It does not mean that no payment is potentially due. In fact many royalty free images are charged at a flat rate one off payment, rather than payment per use.
With the advent of digital image distribution, royalty free licensing has become the traditional form of licence for image use. Stock digital image online repositories often use this form of licence when offering their images. These stock image websites provide photographers and image creation specialists with the ability to sell their images to a much wider audience and thereby receive a payment when the image is purchased.
Other forms of licence may also be offered and dependent upon the image in question, will possibly include one of the following licence options:
Rights Managed Licence
This is a form of licence that bases its pricing upon the use of the image. Factors that affect the pricing usually include the size of the image required, the length of time it is being used, for what purpose and where in the world it is being used. These are normally part of the usage restrictions that are a typical facet of rights managed imagery.
In addition to the aforementioned licence options, there are also free licence options as described below:
This is a popular form of free licence that is frequently found on the internet. Any image will be clearly marked as such and care needs to be taken to ensure that the terms and conditions relating to the image are adhered to, when using any such image.
GNU (General Public Licence) Public Release
Although typically used when related to software, this form of licence is also utilised within the realms of imagery. In some cases the use within this licence is restricted to non-commercial usage.
Public Domain is the type of licence that means that you can use the image in any way that you would like to, including for commercial use. Typically this form of licence relates to most photographs older than 100 years and usually any images that are created by government bodies. Images that have this form of licence will be clearly marked.
How do you find Relevant Images?
Find Images on the Internet
When it comes to finding the most suitable imagery for your requirement, most people now use the internet to source relevant imagery. Google and other search engines have millions of images referenced within their imagery search facilities, however most are not free to use; some will offer limited usage rights such as reuse with modification whilst some can be used for non-commercial use. Only images that are labeled for reuse within the search can be freely used for any purpose, but again it is worth checking to ensure no issues moving forward.
Dedicated stock image websites and other forms of digital image online presence also provide a huge array of image options. The benefit of using a stock image dedicated repository is that the relevant licence details will also be clearly displayed, so there is no confusion in terms of image usage.
If whilst scouring the internet, you find an image that you want to use and are unsure about the licence or copyright on the image, then initially try to find the relevant copyright owner to ask their permission. This is often easier said than done, although if the image is used without the copyright owner’s permission, potential problems will surface at a later date; in short, don’t do it.
Create Your Own Images
This may be an option, and can be the easiest and most cost effective route to creating the imagery you require. However professional images will possibly be of greater quality and create the better impression. The key benefit of creating your own images is that you own the copyright and can therefore use the imagery as you wish.
Enlist the Services of a Photographer
Another option which if a suitable budget is available, may be a solution; this route enables you to decide on the exact imagery required, whilst providing the photographer with the option to utilise artistic licence to deliver the images desired. However, if using a photographer, ensure that ownership of the images is agreed and defined prior to any work, to avoid any future unforeseen issues relating to use of the images.
As with any form of copyrighted material, images included, ensure that you have the right to use the material for the intended purpose.
This article is for guidance only and should not be constituted as legal advice. The note reflects information available as at August 2017.