Things you need to know about image licenses

Photo: Olav Holten
Well, it might surprise you, but you have been paying for content licenses your whole life. A movie ticket is a so called "Personal License" to view a certain movie once, at a certain date, time and movie theatre. A CD or DVD contains both a piece of plastic and a personal license to enjoy the content. The list of personal licensed products goes on, but the basic idea is that you don't own the content itself. You only own a personal license. In a way you are only enjoying a borrowed copy - for a price. 

Below I've listed the two most common license types. It's general descriptions of them, not legal advice, just to have a better understanding when buying an image license.

Personal License:

This is probably the most common, cheapest and most limited license type. As the name implies it is meant for you personally (for your eyes only). It is probably the kind you have for your movie streaming subscription. You, and usually your familly, may enjoy the content but you cannot share it, online or otherwise. How often, for how long time, limitations etc is down to the speciffics of that particular agreement. For a movie streaming subscription, the license usually allows for watching all movies in their catalog 24/7 but for one month only. 

When it comes to images, a personal license typically is non expiring, allowes you to use it as desktop background, do printouts for personal use and perhaps give framed a copy to your parents. It is not meant for online promotion of your professional services or stage performances. What different photographer allows you to do with an image will differ, but without written concent you should assume that you may only use the picture at home and on your own mobile devices - just as with most feature films. Many photographers do however allow for sharing on social media nowadays, since most people don't see the point in buying a pictures that can't produce "likes". 

Royalty Free License:
Companies or people offering preofessional services (incl stage performances) are the main target of this type of license. It implies a one time fee for unlimited number of uses. It does not mean there are no terms or limitations, just that you only pay once. Typically the agreement allows for publication and promotion of professional services. Just remember it is only the buyer of the license that may use and publish the image. It cannot be given out to someone else to publish it, unless speciffically stated in the agreement. If social media publication is allowed... then sharing would probably be implied. 

The practice of including the right for social media sharing in the cheaper personal license partially made more expensive licenses obsolete. Especially since todays performers often use their own name as stage name and the diference between the person and persona on stage gets very blurred. When would a photographer start to demand that a performer should stop buing personal licenses and buy a more expensive license instead?

Now you probably know a little bit more about image licenses, and why you must carefully chose the kind that is right for you. There are many more types of licenses but this is to get you started. Remember that different countries have different names and terms for content licenses, and laws differ over time. What is legal in one country is illegal in another. Different companies have different terms and limitations for the same general type of license. And since this is not a legal document, make sure to check with your lawer before using a picture. Do not see this article as an absolute truth or legal advice. It is only general discriptions of how license types work. And remember to ask the photographer / copyright owner to verify what you are allowed to do.

PS. Don't forget to subscribe to this blog! DS.