Is it really free?

Hello friend. It’s a new year, time for resolutions, new marketing plans and promises to finally update that outdated brochure and blog post. You’ve found the perfect image to go with your brochure or blog post and voila, your done. Right?

A colleague of mine recently received a threatening letter from a BIG NAME stock photo agency, claiming she was using images without paying for the license.
She searched her online presence and discovered one image she had “found” on the internet and used for a blog post. She also received an invoice from this BIG NAME stock photo agency!

It’s become too easy to simply “grab” an image off the internet to use but please beware of this practice. The BIG NAME stock agencies regularly trawl the internet and are able to track their images via the imbedded information in the digital file.

Before taking and using an image, check into its origins to determine the licensing requirements. If you think it may be FREE, be sure to read the fine print on the website agency that you are using images from and always keep a copy of the paperwork. Alternatively, check to see if the artist or photographer has a Creative Commons license. This is a good resource where creatives will share their work and create the terms for usage, often for free as long as credit is given: http://us.creativecommons.org/

Please don’t steal! For the creative folks who produce imagery it’s their means to earn a living and if the work is stolen then they lose that income!

Here are a few tips on using imagery found on the internet, hopefully to keep you from receiving a threatening letter.

First, some terminology:
Images are priced based on several criteria:
1. Duration: Length of time you will use the image
2. Geographic region(s) of your marketing outreach: Local, national or international
3. Quantity of print run (2000 or 2 million brochures, website)
4. Placement: Is the image highlighted on the home page of your website or buried deep on page five of your brochure?

Royalty-Free: Typically less expensive option
What is royalty free? Simply put it means that the fee covers broad, almost unlimited usage rights for the image for marketing purposes such as in a blog post or on your website, printed in collateral materials such as brochure or trade show display. The length of time, geographic area and quantity of items printed is virtually unlimited. The caveat can be if you want to use an image for a product you will sell, then the usage fee associated with the image may be higher.

In my opinion, the problem with royalty-free or free images is they tend to be mediocre at best, and not very original at all. Why look like everyone else?

Rights-managed: Higher fees associated with this
The fee is based specifically on the usage as determined by the four points above. The license is purchased for a specific duration of time, geographic area, how used and displayed, etc. When the license expires you typically have the option to renew again.

If your designer purchases rights-managed images on your behalf, make sure you have an agreement with her as to who will keep the license current. For my client projects I do just this, however if your designer is developing projects for your website, blog or managing your social media presence it is imperative that you understand exactly what is allowed with regard to using various images. Are they truly FREE to use, royalty-free or rights-managed.

If images are purchased on your behalf in YOUR name then you are responsible for making sure the licenses are current.

Of course, there is another option altogether! Use custom images created specifically for your project. Original images ensure that your marketing and outreach won’t look like ALL the rest!