Copyrighted and Royalty-free Images: What’s the Difference?

The internet is littered with numerous websites. These sites depend on visual-based content (images) to showcase their products and services. With stiff competition in the online marketplace, websites are frequently searching out for high-quality images for commercial use. Luckily, many photography sites have come up to address this need. However, these images are not free. They come along with copyright laws, which must be followed to the latter to be able to conveniently and safely use them on your website. Lets’ look at the two primary image licenses in the photography world and how they differ.

  • Difference between copyrighted and royalty-free stock photos

Royalty free images are the most common image licensing on the web. Although royalty free stock photos are commonly interpreted as free photos, they are not free. Royalty free images mean that the photographer (copyright holder) only sells the license to use the photos. The license requires that you pay a one-time fee to use the photos for your marketing campaigns, graphic needs and image creations without the obligation of having to pay another fee again.

If a company purchases a royalty free image right, it is allowed to extend the use of the same right to the employees of the company. This accords the company freedom to endlessly use the image throughout the organization without worrying about paying another fee every time an employee uses the image.

The disadvantage to royalty free images is that the owner of the images can sell the rights to other buyers. This means that your competitors may end up using the same image you purchased for their marketing campaigns. On top of that, the photographer retains the ownership of the images.

  • Rights managed free stock photos

If you come across the term rights managed images, it simply means rights managed licenses. This is because what you buy is the rights to use the images and not the images themselves. Ideally, rights managed agreement accords you the right to utilize images in particular ways. For example, if you buy a rights managed image for a poster, the agreement allows you to use the image for a limited number of copies. If you buy an image for use on your website, you cannot use it on another website or for other purposes. You can also purchase the license to use the image for a specific number of months or in a particular region or country. You cannot exceed the number of months or use beyond the region or country stipulated on the image license.

The advantage of rights managed license is that it gives the option of exclusive and non-exclusive use. Exclusive means only you can use the image. Nonexclusive means other users have the right to use the image. The image listing will tell you whether it’s exclusive or non-exclusive.

It’s important to know that the moment an image is taken, copyright laws kick in. Copyright is meant to cushion the creators of images. In fact, most governments have put into place measures to ensure compliance with copyright regulations. Infringement of these copyright laws can have far-reaching consequences, for example, punitive monetary fines, prison time, injunctions, and financial restitution. Also, Google can bring your website down entirely, impacting your online business operations.