Usage rights/licensing rights for photography is almost as confusing and chaotic as alcohol marketing laws. Each and every photographer and stock photography website has a different license with different usage rights. Here are some items to look for when you hire a photographer or buy stock imagery:
- How long can you use the image? Does it have an "expiration date"? Some photographers or stock photo sites allow you to use the image indefinitely and some have a time limit in place, such as 2 years. Understand what you are paying for before you sign the contract/put in your credit card info.
- Are there limits to the placement of the images? Some photographers/stock photo sites limit the places you can use the image. Some are web-only, some are print & web.
- Do you have exclusive rights to the image? If you want to be the only person around who has this image, you'll need a exclusive license to use it.
- Can the photographer use the image for self-promotion? If you do not want this image anywhere but on your marketing materials, both online & offline, you need to look for this.
- Can you license the image to a third-party without involving the photographer? Usually the answer is no.
- Do you own the copyright or does the photographer retain the copyright?
Copyright infringement and intellectual property rights are serious business. Understanding the license agreement that you are agreeing to will save headaches down the line. Be very diligent in how you intend to use the photography. Be sure that you have thought of every case where you want and would want to use the image - thinking of the future will help when you read the terms.