Royalty-free images? Don’t get caught with a costly fine

We all utilise google images daily for various things, whether to support our online posting or get idea and inspiration. But did you know that choose the wrong photos through search engines could result in your or your business receiving a hefty royalty fine? In our blog this month, we discuss what a royalty-free image is, how images can be used, and we give you some handy tips to avoid getting caught in the royalty trap!

An introduction to what image licenses are and how they can be used

All images come from somewhere. Whether they are captured via a camera or created using online tools, they belong to someone, even if they are online for you to view. There are a variety of image license types, and you must know your rights-managed license from your public domain license:

Rights-Managed Licence

A paid for license; these images have rigorous usage attached to them. The buyer of the image will need to define where the image will be used included printed copies and the length of time it will be used. The buyer will also need to explain the size of the image and which industry will be utilising it.

The benefit to purchasing a rights-managed license is that once the image has been licensed, a competitor from the same industry will not license the same image. This avoids the royalty-free issue of anyone being able to download and use the picture.

This license is generally the most expensive, especially considering that you will have to re-license it if you want to use the image in a different medium.

Editorial Use License

Any image featuring logos or brands, or products that are likely to be recognised, is given an editorial license. They can only be used as part of a story that is likely to be newsworthy. These images cannot be used in any commercial or advertising features.

Royalty-Free License

The most popular license currently, royalty-free licensing allows the image to be purchased once, then used limitlessly. There are, however, some limits on how you can use the images. For example, up to 500,000 prints are generally allowed, and the image cannot be for use on products where it will be the main focus (t-shirts, mugs, marketing material).

Royalty-Free Extended License

An extension of the above described royalty-free license, having the extended license means you can use the images on products where they will be the main focus. However, there is usually a limit to how many products can be produced or sold, which means that it could be more cost-effective to look into royalty managed licenses.

Creative Commons License

A popular choice with photographers, this licensing was set up to assist photographers in protecting their work whilst still providing it fee-free to image users in return for credit to the creator. However, these license types don’t often let image users utilise the image for commercial use.

Public Domain

When an image does not have a licence in place, it will generally have been put into the public domain by the creator for unlimited use.

The risks you face when using licensed images without being the buyer

There are many online tools available to image creators to track down those who misuse their images. These tools allow the creator to upload their portfolios and run algorithms that help find where their images have been used. No matter where you have used it, whether it’s discrete or hidden away, it’s more than likely to be found.

If you are using images that do not have the appropriate licensing, now may be the time to either remove the images or make contact with a web developer who will be able to support you through the process of changing the imagery on your site or social media platforms.

Popular places to use images:

  • Social Media Posting
  • Blog post
  • White papers
  • Websites

If you utilise any of the above, please take the time to go through each and ensure that you are using your perfect image correctly and you either have the correct licensing or the image has been taken from the public domain.

What you could be facing for misusing an image:

  • A cease and desist letter from the creators’ lawyers
  • A charge for the original license plus a fine for each time the image has been used
  • An out of court settlement figure
  • Legal action and court proceedings
  • Magistrates court – up to £50,000 in fines and up to 6 months prison sentence
  • Crown Court – Unlimited fines and up to 10 years prison sentence

Whether you have used these images innocently, credited the creator or made no money using the images, you are still liable. If you are issued a cease and desist notice from the lawyers of the creator, never ignore it. Not only will you have to pay a substantial compensation fee, but you could be faced with a serious legal battle.

How a web development company can help with choosing the right images

When you decide to work with a web development company, they will have a more in-depth understanding of which images can be utilised and where these can be obtained in most circumstances. For example, if you don’t have your own images but require a variety for your website, a good web developer will source these for you as they are more likely to access a wider variety of images due to having subscriptions to stock photo libraries:

Popular stock photo libraries: 

  • Pixabay
  • Unsplash
  • Free Pik
  • Pexels

Although these online libraries are great for sourcing images that you can utilise for your business, you must always read the terms and conditions of the individual pages. Often, there will be limits to how or where you can use the images, and the terms and conditions will explain this in more detail, ensuring you don’t get caught in a trap.

If you provide a physical service or product such as bathroom installations or electrical services, your web developer may encourage you to use photos of your work to display on your site. Not only does this show potential clients your portfolio of work, but as the image creator, you can utilise your images to an endless degree. Just be sure that you don’t capture any person in the photo without gaining their consent.

You may also be interested in:

Why you should optimise your Google my business profile 

Practical tips for finding the best website design company for your business 

Why is a local website hosting company the best choice for your business? 

YostratO, a local web development company with a difference

YostratO is your local web development company in Aylesbury, supporting Buckinghamshire and beyond to create the perfect website for their businesses. We have a deep understanding of image licensing and avoid receiving substantial fines for utilising images you haven’t bought. Our access to various stock photo agencies, combined with our knowledge and expertise, means we are confident we can provide you with high-quality websites that only do positive things for you and your company.

Get in contact with us today to discuss the images you use, and see how we can help you.