Lately, I’ve been using my fair share of stock photos over on my Instagram account and also throughout this website. While I’m a photographer and could easily take all the photos I need for my business, I’m also a content creator, and I don’t always have the time to create a photo for a piece of content I’m writing. The easiest solution: stock photos. If you’re in need of images for your content, too, read on, because I’ve got a guest post today from Ivy Attie, editor over at StockPhotos.com that is all about the ins and outs of using stock photos for your content.
Guest Post by Ivy Attie
Whether you are writing an ad copy or a blog post, there’s no denying the power of visual content. Moreover, with the rise in popularity of royalty-free images, it has become very easy for one to find images that suit your content.
By paying for stock media, you’re more likely to find the ideal file(s) quickly. However, even if you decide not to buy stock images, there are plenty of sites that give you free access to a diverse collection of stock photos but there’s a catch: Just because a stock photo is free doesn’t mean that you can use it anywhere you want. Fine, you can use it in your office presentation and no one would bat an eye. However, the minute you plan on using such files for commercial gains, you can get a step closer to legal trouble.
So, should you just ditch the plans of using stock content in your blogs or ad campaigns? Well, no. However, it goes without saying that in order to utilize such files, you need to do some research and take care of certain guidelines.
That being said, here are the key details you must know before using stock photos for your business. Being aware of these details will help you avoid getting into legal trouble.
The short answer to this question is no, it may not be. While there is nothing stopping you from downloading stock files for free from any relevant site, their use is a completely different monster.
Generally, you shouldn’t be worried about legalities if you intend on using such content for non-profit making purposes. However, you should be careful as the copyright holder might decide to take legal action.
An example of this is when Gigi Hadid got sued for using her own photo taken during a photoshoot. While Gigi won the case, she did have to face a legal battle.
If you are looking to use images from free stock photo sites such as Unsplash or Pixabay for non-commercial purposes, they are usually safe. However, a photographer by the name of Simon Palmer got into trouble for using a photo from Unsplash on his blog.
The reason was he was using a photo where a lady was recognizable and the Unsplash license doesn’t cover such images.So you should always check out the terms and conditions as well as the licensing details before using an image from a free photo website.
Another problem with some free stock photo sites is that they do not have proper checks in place to ensure photos are from the copyright holder. And if you end up using a stolen image, the owner might decide to take action.
If your goal behind using these files is to generate revenue for your business, you might be in for some bad news because:
There’s a high chance that the photos you have downloaded are not intended for commercial use. For any image that is to be used in a business’ ad or marketing campaign, it must be licensed for commercial use. And it’s the responsibility of the publishing party to make sure of that.
The said license must be issued either by the original copyright owner or a distributor who possesses the right to license the file in question on behalf of the original owner.
But there’s a slight inconvenience:
While credible stock photo sites such as stockphotos.com are transparent with their licensing agreement, many others aren’t. So, just be 100% sure about the image you will be using in your ad campaigns or other marketing ventures.
With licensing being a major part of our discussion, let’s take things up a notch:
So, consider that the photo you want to use has a Creative Commons license attached to it. That should make it good for commercial use, right? Well, not exactly:
The Creative Commons license has its options. Some options permit commercial use while others don’t. Moreover, certain options require you to give credit to the owner of the image. Additionally, there are even options that completely restrict you from performing any derivative works.
In this case, it’s highly crucial that you understand the restrictions imposed on the files you intend to use.
Moving on, what if you obtain royalty-free content that is covered under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license? Does the existence of the file in the public domain make it okay for you to use it to make money? Guess what? The legal pressure doesn’t end there as well.
In this case, the problem arises because of the contents of the photo. For example, if you want to use a video or photo featuring a public figure, you must seek their consent first. In case the person in the stock media is a minor, you must reach out to their legal guardian.
If the site containing the photo/video is capable of granting you a signed model release, that will make your job easier. Otherwise, you’ll have to contact the person/people in the file and get permission from them yourself.
Similarly, you must also obtain a signed property-release if the royalty-free photo or clip showcases identifiable buildings and landmarks.
Thus, even though you may find free stock content that is readily usable, that doesn’t confirm that the featured individuals and landmarks are up for anything other than editorial use.
Over the years, various tools have surfaced which help copyright holders in finding content that is in violation of the specified guidelines.
So, when you ask how to use a free stock photo legally for commercial use, the answer is simple. You must obtain an image that is licensed. Additionally, you must attain signed copies of the model and property release, if relevant.
But note that in case a claim pops up, only the publishing party will be held accountable. In order to dodge such claims, make sure that you are licensing your free stock images from a credible source.
Hello there! I'm Alex! I teach hobbyist photographers how to take better photos and professional photographers how to build a thriving business. Here I share tips and resources to help you grow. Thank you so much for visiting my blog!