Five Questions to Ask Before “Buying” a Stock Image

  Agency, Corporate, Media

So you’ve found the perfect image and want to buy it—now what? The first thing to know is that you aren’t actually buying the image. Rather, you’re purchasing a license that gives you certain rights to use it. With that in mind, answering these five questions can help you reduce your risk of unauthorized use down the road.*

1. Is the image Royalty-Free (RF) or Editorial?

“RF” and “Editorial” are common ways to describe the type of license available for an image. This is important because the type of license determines what you can (and cannot) do with the image.

  • Royalty-Free (RF)
    Many stock images you find will be listed as RF, and this type of license will typically give you the right to use the image for as long as you want, as many times as you want, anywhere in the world, and across all types of media. There may be certain usage restrictions to be aware of—if so, they will usually be explained in the license agreement.
  • Editorial
    News, sport, entertainment, and archival images are most often used in a way that relates to events that are newsworthy or would be of interest to the general public. Typically, you can’t use editorial images for commercial purposes (for example, advertising or promoting a product) because the people in, or the owners of the products or property in the image have not consented to such uses.

2. How long will the image be used?

Once you’ve licensed a RF image, it’s generally yours to use for as long as you wish. Editorial images are usually licensed for a specific period of time—anywhere from one week to several years. Keep in mind, once the Editorial license expires, you cannot continue to use the image without further approval, so make sure your license covers the full length of your campaign or project.

3. How much do you want to spend?

You can license images one at a time, but that can start to eat into your budget. If you find yourself using RF images regularly, consider purchasing an annual subscription for a certain number of licenses. The advantage of this option is that the more you buy upfront, the lower your license cost per image will be. For Editorial image licenses, the price can vary depending on how you plan to use the image, and if you also want to license the image on an exclusive basis.

4. Does your image contain people, trademarks, landmarks, or artistic works?

If the answer is yes, there may be certain privacy rights, trademarks, and copyright that would prevent certain uses (like commercial projects) of the image. For RF content, it’s important to make sure that any models and/or property owners have waived these rights (called “releases”) before you license the image—the provider may already have these signed releases for your image, and you can usually find the release status on the image details page. Be aware that if releases have not been obtained, this may restrict the ways in which you can use the image.

5. Does the image provider offer legal protection (indemnification)?

Another way to reduce some of your legal risks is to license images through a provider that offers image protection. For example, if you follow the terms of the license agreement, Getty Images may indemnify you in respect to your use of your licensed RF image against claims stating that your use of the image violates copyright, trademark infringement, or privacy rights.

Still have questions?

For more information and to tap into our licensing expertise regarding your use of Getty Images content, visit our Content License Agreement page or contact your sales rep.

*This article is for general discussion purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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