Checklist for Image Use
Here are a few things to ask yourself before you copy and paste an image you found online onto your desktop or pull out the credit card to buy an image from a stock photo website. Always be aware of what usage rights are allowed by the copyright holder or stock agency and if those rights will cover the way you want to use the image in your project. If you know the rights beforehand, then you can avoid potential legal headaches that may appear down the road.
Here is a simple question and answer checklist that can help protect you. Knowing how you can use an image should not be that complicated and shouldn’t feel like you are tip-toeing through a legal minefield either. To be blunt, it’s very important to understand before you purchase and use an image, what rights you have bought and what protections the agreement has put in place to protect you from claims.
The checklist of considerations and questions below are important to think about when licensing an image:
Ask yourself, how am I using the image exactly?
If the image is going to be used on a t-shirt design, within a mobile app, on a road-side billboard, for an e-device, on your client’s homepage or within a college textbook just to name a few, you will want to make sure that the license covers your particular usage. If you don’t know if you are covered, then don’t assume. You can always call up the photographer or stock agency to ask if your specific usage is covered by the license they offer. Better to be safe then to assume.
I need to be able to use an image forever. Will the license I buy ever expire?
This is very important. Start by asking yourself, “how long do I want to use a particular image for any project?” Check if the license expires in the future or grants you rights to use the image ‘in perpetuity’, which means the license doesn’t expire. Always check to make sure there isn’t a time restriction on your usage. Royalty free licenses are almost always ‘in perpetuity’ and won’t expire. Rights managed licenses have restrictions and limitations on how long you can use an image. Make sure you record if the license expires on a certain date and save that information along with the image. If someone created a website for you make sure that the images they selected for you don’t expire. The last thing you want is an unexpected bill or an email from an angry photographer or agency questioning why you are still using an image, whose license has expired.
Does the amount of times I print the image matter?
This is a good time to double-check how many times you want to print, reproduce or otherwise use an image. This is sometimes called “print run.” For example if you are going to print an image 10,000 times on a poster or use the image for a book cover that will be printed over 250,000 times, you want to make sure that the license doesn’t have a “print run restriction” that might require you to pay extra for any excess prints you make over the allotted amount. If you know your usage will exceed the number of times you can print it according to the license, you can purchase an additional license exemption in some cases called an extended license so you increase your print run to unlimited.
Am I licensing Royalty Free images or Rights Managed images?
Knowing the difference between these two license types is extremely important and will affect how your able to use the image. Clicking the checkout button and paying for the image doesn’t mean that you can use it anyway you like. You need to know the rights you are obtaining through the license.
If I use a subscription service to license images am I still allowed to use the images I downloaded after my subscription ends?
No, unless you used a specific image for a project during the time of your subscription. In that case, you can re-use the image but if you do not use the image during the time of your subscription and then use it after your subscription ends you are in violation of your licensing agreement and subscription sites will send a team of lawyers after you. You have to be very careful of subscription sites and their license. A person who cancels their stock subscription can not stockpile, download, or otherwise store images not used within a few months of the expiration of their subscription. This means you can not use any image which was downloaded but not used in a personal project or clients project during the time of your subscription. All subscription sites have a provision that limits how you can use images you downloaded during the subscription period that have not been used in a project. This is called image warehousing.
Ask yourself, Are there recognizable people, famous landmarks or artistic works (such as paintings or sculptures) in the image?
For commercial use, you need to double-check that your supplier holds the appropriate model or property release for that image. A simple email asking the photographer or agency for confirmation that they hold the releases is a good start.
Does the photographer or stock agency offer legal protection with the image license?
You will want to find out who assumes the liability and costs if a claim arises and you have to go to court. Does the license that you are considering buying cover you from these types of claims? Ask yourself and check the license to determine what kinds of claims are covered by the legal protection.
Where is a good place to ask for advice if you are not sure?
Stock Photo License is a good place to start for information and you should bookmark our resource and link to it from your site to help others. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask us a question on twitter by using @stockphotousage and we will respond. Next, you could contact the photographer or stock agency. However, the best advice is to contact your legal counsel if you have specific questions.