What is a license?
A license is a grant of rights to use an image (or any other content such as illustration, video or audio) in accordance with license terms. The one granting a license is the licensor. The one obtaining the license is a licensee. Licenses can be very broad or very narrow depending on the terms. The licensee obtains a license to use an image but does not own any copyright in the image.
What do the different license types mean?
A Rights managed license is a limited rights license where the license fee is determined by the scope of the use determined by specific usage parameters. These parameters can include image placement, size, print run, duration, industry, among others. The license terms are based on the specifications of the individual project needs of the licensee. The licensee must obtain permission and negotiate an additional license fee from the Licensor to use the image beyond the rights initially granted. Rights managed images can be licensed on a non-exclusive or exclusive basis. When licensing exclusive rights to a rights-managed image, the licensee pays an additional fee to the Licensor (agency or image owner) than for a non-exclusive use since the image will not be available to others in the exclusive market during the license term.
Microstock is also known as micropayment. Microstock is a broad license similar to a royalty free license and is a non-exclusive license. The images or other content is sold at a very low price for very broad uses. The licensee pays a one-time license fee which allows the use of the image in perpetuity for a set of defined uses. The content cannot be given to, shared with or resold to anyone else for their use. The license terms have restrictions on use which must be reviewed as the uses are not unlimited. Microstock content is often user-generated, by both amateurs and professionals; sourced from the general public. Payment for use is based on file size. Most sites sell credits which are used to acquire the content. A certain number of credits are required to be purchased in order to download images of varying resolutions. Many sites also license vector illustrations and some also license stock footage (video).
Microstock also has what is known as an Extended License: This allows microstock photos to be used for purposes not included in the standard license, including retail products such as t-shirts, posters, postcards etc. In addition, the standard agreement generally imposes a limit on how many products can be reproduced under the license terms. The extended license allows the user to increase the print run or number of units. Some companies have extended licenses terms that includes templates for website use. Each company has different extended license options and restrictions so you will need to review the different options for each company.
Subscription licensing is a form of royalty free (i.e. non-exclusive) licensing. It permits a user (licensee) to download up to a maximum number of images (per day or month) while the subscription is active. A subscription is typically a single user license that may not be shared, but there can be an option to purchase additional ‘seats’ for other users at the same organization. Payment is usually taken monthly or annually.
A Creative Commons licenses permit free use of an image with clearly specified conditions. All uses of a Creative Commons image must include a credit to the image creator. Some images may be used for commercial purposes; and some may be modified (but the modified image must be offered for free licensing under the same terms as the original image).
Public Domain images are not restricted by copyright and therefore do not require a license to use them. They may be freely used in any way for any purpose. There are three main categories of public domain images:
- historic images, for which copyright protection has expired
- images that were never eligible for copyright protection, such as US federal government works
- images whose creator explicitly transferred the work into the public domain
What does it mean when an image says, ‘Additional permissions may be required’?
A license only covers the use of the image by the copyright owner or owner of the image. The image may depict recognizable people, trademarked products or other copyrightable objects that may require additional clearances depending on the license.
When do I not need to buy a license to use an image?
Many stock agencies will offer a comp license to permit the use of low resolution images for in-house presentation purposes and not for final use, otherwise known as “comp-use”. Some companies will charge for the use of an image for presentation and will credit the comp fee back to you if you license/buy the image.
Sometimes you can seek permission to use a higher res version.
What should I do if I want to change or extend the terms of my license?
Contact the company you purchased the license from and let them know you need to change the license or add additional uses to it. There will most likely be an additional fee for the uses you want to add or change.
Visual Connections accepts no liability for any inaccuracies in fact or interpretation in the information provided here, which does not constitute legal advice.