Image License Types

creative commons license seal

As I said in my previous post it is important to pay greater attention to image license prior to picture’s download. You have to check thoroughly what you can and what you cannot do with the images. Sometimes you are not allowed to use the image for commercial purposes, to modify it, to display the image more than a certain number of times, etc. Anyway it is preferable to give a credit to the author.

 A license is an agreement between the owner (a photographer or a stock agency) and the buyer that provides rules of the image usage.

Very few images are not copyrighted and known as public domain. Public domain photos don’t have any license agreement at all. The photographers have made their creative work public for anyone to use it in whatever way they like.

In stock photography there are 4 common types of licensing:

  1. Royalty Free (RF)

  2. Rights Managed (RM)

  3. Subscription

  4. Micro.

However we’ll focus only on the comparison between most popular license types - RF and RM licenses.

Rights Managed License is very restrictive. This type of license defines a number of times the image can be displayed, image size and in what medium it will be used. It gives the buyer exclusive rights. Therefore it’s most unlikely that a competitor will choose the same picture. If you want to use this image in another sphere you will have to purchase an additional license.

Royalty Free License is less restrictive in comparison with RM. It allows the buyer to use an image on different resources and media any number of times. You pay once for royalty free images at a set price. The image supplier still owns all the image's rights and only sells the right for the buyer to use the image. No additional license is needed if you decide to use the picture in another industry. However for a commercial use it is necessary to have an extended license that provides more exclusivity.

Creative Commons License is a set of licenses. They are very flexible and help photographers or authors license their creations under easy terms to benefit both the owner and the buyer. Creative Commons License tools grant a permission to copy, distribute, edit and remix heaps of content within the boundaries of copyright law.

Characteristic Royalty Free License Rights Managed License
Restrictions Non-restrictive Very restrictive
Exclusiveness Non-exclusive Exclusive
Payment Once Once for a definite medium
Use Everywhere In a certain medium
Number of displays Any number A certain number
Price Average High


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