Royalty free? Rights managed? What does it all mean?

Posted: October 16th, 2014 by Alison

Whether you are putting together your website, newsletter or leaflet the chances are you will want some imagery to bring the design to life. But where do you get your images from and is it ok to download images for free from the internet?

You can’t just use images that you find in Google images, you need the copyright to use that image. In accordance with the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, all photographers (whether they are professional, amateur, or just a friend with an iPhone) own the photos they take, and therefore own the copyright to them, they own where and how the images are used.

There are numerous image sites that you can buy images from and here you will probably come across the terms, royalty free, rights managed and sometimes editorial use only.

If you buy a royalty free image you can use that image where you like and as often as you like. So it can appear on your leaflet and your website for one flat fee. Rights managed means that before you purchase the image you have to tell the owner where you plan to use that image and how many times you plan to use it. The cost of that image will be dependent on these factors. Editorial use only is what it says on the tin, this image can only be used for editorial articles and often you have to add a copyright line to the image.

There are some sites where you can download images for free, this is ok as you have been given permission to use this image however you want for no cost. Double check the small print, sometimes they say they are free but then have a copyright line which doesn’t give you permission for commercial use.

If you want an image to bring your newsletter to life, put on your website or use in a presentation there are several ways you can go about it:

  • Buy from a stock library like Getty, iStock, Shutterstock

  • Commission a photographer or illustrator

  • Take your own image

  • Speak to a graphic designer and they can point you in the right direction