Understanding commercial image licensing is crucial in understanding the value of commercial photography. As a commercial photographer I work with companies and digital agencies of all sizes producing photographs for the use of services, social media, products and their brand. But the term “Licencing” is rarely used or commonly misunderstood.
In this article I wanted to delve a little deeper into licensing of images, the terminology of the word “licensing” , how it applies to my services, and what you should look for when purchasing intellectual property.
I’m not a legal expert and the information contained in this article has not been verified by a professional legal expert, and I encourage you to do your own research, but I hope that I can give you a professional view on the term licensing so when you purchase packages and services from me you understand the value you are getting from the package. The information in this article is based on research done through Google.
As a brief explanation. licensing is a legal agreement that allows a person or organisation to use intellectual property, in our case photography in exchange for payment or other compensation. Other such items classed as intellectual property can include software, trademarks, patents, or copyrights.
Licensing is a form of contractual agreement that defines the rights and responsibilities of both parties, They can include the following.
Licensing is a common practice in many industries, as it allows individuals and companies to monetize their creations and protects the rights of both parties involved. It also promotes innovation and creativity by allowing for the distribution and use of new technologies and ideas.
Licensing can seem scary, but it’s really not and it’s quite a simple concept to understand.
Before we talk deeper about licensing let me just refresh you on what the term copyright means as this is important when it comes to understanding Licensing.
Copyright is a simple term that protects the intellectual property owner from someone “copying” their original works.It gives the intellectual property owner the right to control how their work is used, including copying, distributing, and displaying it. The purpose of copyright is to encourage creative expression by ensuring that creators are fairly compensated for their work.
Copyright protection typically lasts for a set period of time, after which the work enters the public domain and can be used freely by anyone.
Any photographs taken by a photographer are the intellectual property of that photographer who created it. Therefore they own the copyright to that photo. They created the original piece therefore they are the owners of that piece..
The photographer (Intellectual property owner) Will set up a usage licence in the form of a contract that allows the licenced user specific uses of that photo.
Within that contract there will be a section called “Licencing Agreement” which details how such an image can be used, where the image can be used and how long the image can be used for.
As a client you need to understand that myself as a professional photographer, licensing a photograph I take is how I will generate income as an artist. A professional photographer licensing their photos is no different to a musician who licence their music.
By licensing my work, I am given clear and specific instructions on how that photograph can be used, it means that the client cannot use the photo as they see fit or sell my art as their own. Each use of the photograph must be detailed in the usage licence, if the usage licence expires the client must re-licence that photo.
You will have at some point used or seen stock images, these are sometimes cheap and quick and easy to grab images for marketing purposes, however it’s important to understand that you’re not actually buying a photo. You are buying a licence to use that image, you don’t own the copyright of the image and there are certain restrictions applied to that image that you just paid for.
There are commonly two types of licensing in stock photography, Royalty free and Rights Managed.
Royalty free images are normally fixed cost, and grants the client non-exclusive use of the photo as long as it’s used within the licence agreement. However royalty free can have limitations, you can’t resell the images, you can’t claim copyright, and there could be limitations on specific quantities the image can be used for, for example prints, A lot of stock photography sellers limit the photo to the number of prints based on the licence.
Rights managed photos are normally higher quality but significantly more expensive, but there are less options to choose from. Their licence is specific to an intended use, and the licence only covers that specific use, anything outside that scope would require another licence.
A usage licence for commercial photography services typically includes the following elements:
It’s important for both the client and the photographer to carefully review and understand the terms of the usage licence, to ensure that their rights and obligations are clearly defined. The licence should be written in a clear and concise manner, and any ambiguities should be addressed before it is signed.
Conclusion - Understanding The Value Of A Photography Licence
This has been quite an in-depth article, and we have talked about some tricky subjects, and I want to thank you for getting this far, but it’s an important piece to talk about because licensing and cost is a tricky subject.
In my business, A Smile A Day Photography, I serve business clients only, meaning my photography services will include photos of products, people, property, services and anything that can help a business earn money. As a creative I make my money from creating pieces of art that help another person make money. My photography packages include a generous number of images I licence to you, with the options to purchase more photography bundles. These are far more cost effective than stock images.
I regularly use a commercial use licence, for most of my work but sometimes a personal use licence for other pieces, but I still own the copyright, it has not been transferred to the client, I am simply giving my clients the licence to use the photographs will help you sell a product, tell a story, build your brand, and that can mean a tremendous value to the business.
As a commercial photographer I would encourage you to distance yourself from stock imagery, your brand is important, you need to be unique, distinguish yourself from your competitors, you will not find unique photographs on stock image sites, and you may find a photoshoot is more cost effective.