What you need to know about “royalty free” images


Most designers love royalty-free images for a reason; they are usually pre-formatted with creative needs in mind. Experienced designers use these images regularly and responsibly, but budding creatives and hobbyists often misunderstand what it is or simply don’t care about the rules.

Please take these into consideration when using this medium, as mistakes can be costly and damage a designer’s reputation in the professional community.

“Royalty Free” does not mean “Totally Free”

It’s easy to think that “royalty-free” means that no money changes hands. In reality, what royalty-free means is that the seller receives a royalty for unlimited use of the image, and that use is, almost without exception, reserved for purposes other than resale, such as material promotional, marketing or informational use. The majority of sites that provide royalty-free images actually state that their images cannot be used for material or monetary gain without permission, and said permission usually involves the payment of royalties.

There is no “Copyright Free”

This is the most common mistake made by many new professionals and all amateurs. Under US and international laws, any image created is immediately copyrighted by the creator – the only differences from government to government are fair use and statute of limitations. Buying the rights to use an image without paying royalties is just that; the right of use, not ownership. Photographers and photography businesses make their money by selling rights clearances. This is the rare case where photographers sell the image itself (i.e. the copyright) to someone who will use it in a commercial endeavor. Copyright ownership is traditionally only sold to private parties for personal use (i.e. wedding photos) due to difficulty in enforcing copyright law without clear proof of ownership.

RECOMMENDED: The Bloggers Guide to Royalty-Free Images

The terms and conditions not only apply, they are forced

The reason most amateurs give for violating the terms and conditions of royalty-free image websites is a common refrain in business; it’s only a violation if you get caught. Well, here’s a cautionary tale involving two big boys from American business and academia, respectively: Facebook and Princeton University.

According to Daily Grita lawsuit brought in Federal Court by Planner5d, a company that provides royalty-free design tools, is seeking damages from both Facebook and Princeton University for what they claim is unauthorized use of their website to obtain files from scene, which are essential to any interior design. Although Facebook and Princeton’s behavior is alleged and not yet proven in court, it is still a cautionary tale of why designers should ALWAYS understand a website’s terms and conditions. Since lawsuits are public records and therefore easily searchable, an employer considering hiring a designer will see where they bent the rules to suit their needs, and that job the designer was hoping for would become an instant memory. .

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Even following the rules doesn’t mean Well pictures

Although royalty-free images are convenient and profitable, there are some pitfalls to using them. Even under ideal conditions, many images have watermarks that cannot be removed, copyrights that are sometimes unsightly and detrimental to image quality, and some images cannot be enlarged at the risk of severe image degradation. the image. Worse still, some images that can be viewed cannot be saved – a practice used by many cheaper royalty-free providers. In some cases, images are even encoded to go completely black when the file is sent to print or converted to PDF or, even worse, appear dazzling on screen but are actually low resolution 72 DPI, which is print horribly. Best practice is to read the terms and conditions of the subscription or purchase and contact the provider to find out if they offer royalty-free images for printing purposes. Some do, some don’t.

Be smart, be fair

As a minor comment on the state of royalty free images and copyright abuse in general, it’s safe to say that for every designer “rules are meant to be broken” there are hundreds who want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are bad apples in every group, and the same goes for websites and image providers. The best advice is to stick to the rules, do your homework, and ask around. Experienced professionals are a great resource for finding images and the best way to use them legally. Creatives appreciate when others play by the rules and when others honor their work by being willing to use it as intended. It can be the difference between landing a dream job or gig in one day and being a “starving artist” because you haven’t felt the need to play by everyone’s rules.

Information from Shutterstock, Grit Daily and Archival Photo Guide was used in this article.


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