Tag Archives: photo usage

Photography Copyright Explained- Best Practices

Gun sight with copyright symbol on white background - 3d illustrationWhat is photo copyright?

Copyright is defined as the exclusive set of rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. In addition, any of these rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned to another party like what takes place at Cutcaster when we license or sell one of your images royalty free. Copyright only lasts for a certain time period, after which the work is said to enter the public domain. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works protects any creator of “original works of authorship” under it’s copyright law which protects works in all 160 countries that are party to the Convention, as well as various other laws such as the US copyright act.

Copyright law has been internationally standardized, lasting between fifty and one hundred years from the author’s death, or a shorter period of time for corporate authorship or anonymous works. Generally, copyright is enforced as a civil matter, though some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions.

Before 1989 all published works, in the US, had to contain a copyright notice, the (c) symbol, followed by the publication date and copyright owner’s name, to be protected by copyright. This is no longer the case and use of a copyright notice is now optional in the US, though you will still see them used.

Does copyright apply to all images?

Yes, every image out there from the time it is created becomes automatically protected under copyright laws. One should know, that copyright law is different from country to country, and a copyright notice is required in about 20 countries for a work to be protected under copyright laws.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement, copyright piracy or copyright violation, is the unauthorized use of photos covered by copyright law, in a way that violates one of the copyright owners’ exclusive rights. Imagery infringement may include:


• Using the image beyond the scope of a license or permission granted
• Recreating an image identically with another photographer
• Use of whole or part of an image without permission i.e. “mash-up” or derivative work
• Art rendering, where someone adapts an image without permission

Checklist for using Pictures, Images or Clipart you found online. What is royalty free?

Checklist Tick boxes in black with pencil and drop shadow

Photo Checklist

The checklist of considerations and questions below are important to think about when you found an image online and want to use it for whatever creative or editorial reason. Here is a checklist of things to ask yourself when licensing and using 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 photo 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 photo license expires in the future or grants you rights to use the image ‘in perpetuity’, which is just legal jargon that 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 the resource and link to it from your site to help others. You can email them at team@stockphotolicense.com or ask them a question on Twitter by using @stockphotousage. Next, you could contact the photographer or stock agency. However, the best advice is to contact your legal counsel if you have specific questions.

What is royalty free?

If you are looking for amazing royalty free photos and vectors please visit Cutcaster.com.