7 Image Licensing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

TopFoto Archive


1112333: Train wreck at Hunton Bridge, King’s Langley – September 1922

Every ad campaign, blog article, and video needs images to make them interesting. A quick Google search can pull up millions of them ripe for the picking. However, not all your options for images are legal to use for your commercial needs.

While there are some free images out there, there are laws that can prevent you from using others. Image licensing exists to protect the creator from misuse of their product. It also holds people accountable for how they use said imagery.

Here are some of the image licensing mistakes you want to avoid.

1. Using Images Without Permission

Finding different types of photos on the internet is easy, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to use them as you see fit.

A licensing agreement sets the rules for how an image can be used, and you often have to pay a fee to gain access to them. For example, an image created by a liberal artist may restrict you from associating it with a conservative message.

In many cases, getting access to licensed photos is as simple as paying for it. There may also be times where your business will need to reach out to the creator for permission.

2. Ignoring Watermarks on Images

One of the worst image licensing mistakes is using an image with the watermarks still visible. You may think settling for a flawed image makes it okay, but watermarks on images don’t make you exempt from a lawsuit.

While it may seem like it’s free advertising for the artist, your purposes may not line up with their interests. Additionally, it makes your business look like it can’t afford to actually pay for the content.

Paying for access to the images usually provides a watermark-free version.

3. Not Using Current Photos

Images are supposed to add to your content. Using current photos that are up to date is the best way to do so.

For contemporary stories, if you don’t use recent photos, you run the risk of misleading your audience and bringing on legal difficulties. For example, you might accidentally use an older photo of an overweight celebrity, except they may have lost most of that weight in recent years.

If you are talking about somewhere today, for example, an older landscape photo may not accurately represent the area anymore. There’s most likely a better, more recent photo available for your business if you take the time to look.

4. Images With Branding in Them

Keep a discerning eye when searching up images for business. Just because you’ve legally acquired a photo doesn’t mean it’s completely legal to use. There may be visible content that can cause trouble for you later on.

The main types of content to stay aware of are copyrighted imagery or branded products.

A photo of a cityscape could help to promote your travel blog, but a visible Budweiser banner could bring their lawyers on your head. Similarly, a painting that’s been photographed may itself be copyrighted.

If you’re hoping to profit from your content, your business needs to make sure any related photography is clear of other copyrighted work.

5. Purchasing the Wrong License

Not all photograph licenses are made the same. It’s important to know the difference between them all so you get the right ones for your purposes.

A royalty-free license is the default for many types of photos. It allows users to purchase an image once for unlimited uses. An extended license allows you to further put the image on products to be sold.

An editorial use license allows publishers to feature logos, brands, events, and celebrities as long as they’re relevant to the news story.

In the case of a rights-managed license, the buyer needs to tell the owner exactly how they’re going to use the image as specifically as possible. You pay only for the rights you need to clear, and they usually come with additional benefits such as research support.

Creative Commons licenses allow free use of images under certain conditions including as long as the creator is attributed.

6. Attribution

Lack of proper attribution is one of the biggest image licensing mistakes made. When it comes to images obtained via Creative Commons licenses, it’s legally required for a company to say where they obtained the image.

This is done by leaving a caption underneath the image with information saying who created the image. If the creator is unknown, you may say where the image was obtained.

Even with some images used for newsworthy stories, it’s better safe than sorry to give some kind of attribution.

If they’re royalty-free, you should be fine without it.

7. Not Reaching Out

If you ever find yourself confused about an image’s permissions, don’t be afraid to reach out to the owner or representative. In some rare cases, you may be able to renegotiate the terms of their copyright license or gain access to their content for free.

For a rights-managed license, it’s basically a requirement that you communicate your needs to the image provider. You’ll also learn more about the limitations of the copyright.

When dealing with a royalty-free website, you can contact their customer service if you have any questions.

Avoid Image Licensing Mistakes

Copyright licenses exist to protect creators from misuse of their content, and provide income for creators to create. Image licensing mistakes can end up costing your business time and money in legal fees.

In order to avoid those mistakes, always make sure to know the terms and conditions of a specific copyright license. The safest choice is to go with a rights-managed website, which allows you to use the purchased photo as much as you want and are able to pay for.

At TopFoto, we license photographs and images from all over the world. Register online to check out our extensive collection online.


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