March 16, 2023

Understanding the Legal Aspects of Using Stock Photos

By Morkven

In the digital age, visuals have become a crucial part of communication. From social media to websites, from marketing materials to presentations; we rely heavily on images to make an impact. That’s where stock photos come in handy. Stock photos are professional images licensed for commercial or personal use on demand. They are a cost-effective solution to create high-quality visuals, but it’s not always easy to understand the legal aspects of using them.

In this article, we will explain what you need to know to use stock photos safely and legally.

Copyright ownership

Stock photos are creative works that are protected by copyright laws. The copyright holder is usually the original photographer or designer who created the image. They own the exclusive rights to distribute, reproduce, and display the image. So, the first and most crucial aspect of using stock photos is obtaining the right to use them legally.

Licensing options

Stock photos are available under different licensing options, and the terms of each license dictate how you can use the image legally. Here are the two most common licensing options that stock image providers offer.

1. Royalty-free stock photos. As the name suggests, royalty-free stock photos are images that you can use as many times as you want without paying any additional fees. Once you purchase a license, you can use the image for commercial or personal use, without any geographical or time restrictions. However, you can’t claim ownership of the image, and you can’t resell or distribute it to others.

2. Rights-managed stock photos. Rights-managed images are licensed for specific uses, and the price varies depending on factors such as the size of the image, the duration of use, and the number of times it will be used. The license restrictions are also more specific, such as the geographic location, duration, industry, and media for which the image will be used.

Image attribution

While it’s not mandatory to give credit to the copyright owner of a stock photo, it can be a good practice to acknowledge their work. Some stock photo providers even require image attribution as part of the licensing terms. In such cases, you must include the copyright holder’s name and a link to their website, or the name of the stock photo agency you purchased the image from.

Model and property releases

One legal aspect that often goes unnoticed is the requirement for model and property releases. Model releases are signed agreements between the photographer and any recognizable people in the photo, giving legal permission for their likeness to be used for commercial purposes. A property release is a signed agreement between the property owner and the photographer, giving legal permission to photograph and use the property image for commercial purposes.

Model and property releases are particularly important when using stock photos for advertising, promotions, or endorsements. Without proper releases, you could be held liable for infringing a person’s right to privacy and could potentially face legal action.

The bottom line

The digital world is full of opportunities, but it also carries legal responsibilities. Understanding the legal aspects of using stock photos is essential to avoid legal disputes and penalties. Make sure to obtain the right licensing agreement, check for image attribution requirements, and ask for model and property releases when necessary.

In summary, while using stock photos can be a cost-effective solution to create high-quality visuals for your business, it’s necessary to understand the legal requirements to use them safely and legally. By following these guidelines, you can create an impactful visual communication strategy that complies with legal regulations.