Introduction to Photo Licensing Part 1

Oftentimes people avoid anything dealing with legal issues, and photo licensing is not a fun topic to think about. We’ll try to put it into simple terms and make this as painless as possible.

Mainstream Data has been in the photo licensing business for nearly five years after we acquired Newscom, the largest multi-agency photo

licensing library in the world. Newscom provides a platform where content publishers can find and license photos, videos, graphics, and text from photographers and content creators around the world.

Copyright laws have been around since the advent of the printing press, or about the 18th century. While sometimes confusing, these laws really are essential in order to protect photographers. There are a few terms that you need to know to understand the world of photography and photo licensing, so we’ll explain them in this blog. Part 2 of our Introduction to Photo Licensing will talk about how these laws affects a real-life photographer.

There are three main licensing options:

female photographer

Female photographer. Misty Bedwell/Design Pics/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: depphotos015904

  • Royalty Free
  • Flat Fee
  • Rights Managed

A royalty free photo has nothing to do with Will and Kate. What happens in this contract is you pay for a license (like a contract) that gives you the right to a photo, and then it is yours to do with as you please. You can post it anywhere and everywhere; however, only you have licensed that image. You alone may use and re-use that photo without having to pay for it each time – you cannot send the photo to your cousin or former coworker for them to use on their blog. They would need to license the photo themselves.

A flat fee is for just one image, and similar to a licensing agreement with a royalty-free photo, the image is intended to be used by only one person, and that person is the “end-user.” End-user means the person who is the last one to use it. They’re the end of the line for that particular photo.

Rights managed is very particular. This is when the photo is licensed from the photographer for a very specific use. The buyer must ask permission from the photographer or agency licensing the photo before using it anywhere else – and they’ll typically have to pay more to use it again. This image cannot be used in any other way than what was specifically agreed to. The plus of having this licensing agreement is that the photographer can agree to protect the photo from a competitor.

Imagine the awkwardness when a company and photographer sign a rights managed agreement, then a fan takes the picture off the photographer’s website without licensing it, and somewhere down the line that company’s competitor grabs that photo before the company can print it. Oops? Imagine trying to be that photographer and explain that you can’t explain how they got that picture.

We understand you love photos (Newscom has some truly fabulous photos) and they would really add to your website; but just like you can’t take a calendar out of the store to show everyone until after you’ve paid for it, you also can’t take these digital photos off of our site until you’ve paid for the right to use them. You can come to our website and look all you like, but once you’re done, it needs to stay there. You can’t take it with you.

We’re sincerely flattered that you love our pictures, and sharing them is kind of the point of our business. But there’s a right and wrong way to do that.

Photo: Female photographer. Misty Bedwell/Design Pics/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: depphotos015904