License Types

There are a number of different types of licenses that are common in the media industry. It is helpful to understand these so you know what you are selling.

Rights Managed (RM)
Royalty Free (RF)
Exclusive and non-exclusive
Creative Commons (CC)

Rights Managed (RM)

Before the internet and digitisation, all licensing was done on a per use basis. Picture libraries or photographers would supply physical transparencies or prints to the publisher and charge the publisher a fee for the particular use the publisher put that image to.

Often these calculations were quite involved with charges for the particular market (editorial or commercial), type of publication (e.g. trade magazine or coffee table book), the placement (e.g. front cover or inside), the size of use (e.g. quarter page or double page spread), the print run of the publication (e.g. 5,000 or 100,000) and so on. A buyer would expect to pay a small amount for the use of an image for editorial, quarter page and inside a magazine and a large amount for an image that will be put to commercial use on bill boards around the country for an advertising campaign.

FIGURE 1 Rights Managed calculation on the Africa Media Online site. Notice the number of options (not all are visible) that attempt to get the buyer to their ball-park use. Ease of use online has meant these calculations have become far simpler than they used to be

Then digital and the internet came along and Royalty Free became a way of licensing, and so a name had to be found for the traditional way of licensing. For a while it was called Rights Restricted. That did not sound too attractive, however, so some clever marketing types at Getty Images came up with Rights Managed (RM) and pretty soon the whole industry was using it.

Rights Managed tends to be simpler than it once was; online calculation systems have made sure of that. Buyers do not have time to click through loads of options to try and calculate the license for their particular use, but the principle is still there. Buyers pay for whatever use they put the image to. This license type is particularly used for collections of images that are applicable for editorial use. This is because editorial publications or broadcasters tend to use an image once. They tend not to want to publish the image again and again. So it is not really a problem for an editorial buyer that they do not have rights to use the picture more than once. If on the rare occasion they do, they are fairly content to pay again for the new usage.

Royalty Free (RF)

Royalty Free was created as a licensing model in response to the need that advertisers have to use images for a whole campaign. An advertising agency might design a campaign for their client that includes a brochure, a web site, ads in magazines and newspapers and bill board ads. Pictures are often fundamental to such a campaign and the advertising agency does not want their client to have to pay for every different usage or every time the campaign is rolled out to a new market. Therefore, stock photo agencies in the 1990s developed Royalty Free.

Royalty Free licenses work by image size. One tends to buy a particular size of image and the larger the file in megabytes the pricier it becomes. This is because the larger the file you have at your disposal, the more uses you can put it to.

Because this licensing model was developed primarily for the advertising markets, Royalty Free images also became associated with images that are model and property released, a requirement for commercial or advertising use. For images where places and people are recognizable, this has become a requirement, simply because the Royalty Free license does not allow you to control use.

FIGURE 2 Price calculation of a Royalty Free image on the Africa Media Online site. Notice the calculation per file size and how the cost escalates with the file size

Essentially buyers get to purchase a particular file size of an image and then get to use it as much as they like and for whatever purpose they like thereafter. For photographers who shoot for the Royalty Free market, this model works simply because the number of sales of each image tends to be greater than an equivalent Rights Managed image. The larger file sizes are often sold for more than an equivalent Rights Managed image, and for their own sake buyers tend not to overuse any one image, so they keep coming back for more.

Royalty Free is not necessarily a less expensive way to purchase imagery. For a single use, Rights Managed images may well be less expensive. If buyers are purchasing for multiple use, however, it tends to win out.

Exclusive and non-exclusive

Exclusivity or non-exclusivity are not license types. Rather they are further conditions qualifying a particular license that you may want to grant to a buyer.

If you grant exclusivity to an image, that means that during the period that exclusive rights are granted, you agree that rights to use that image will not be sold to anyone else. Exclusivity is fairly rare, but when it does come along, usually the buyer believes your image is exactly right and he or she wants that image exclusively representing his or her brand. This usually means that you can charge a lot for the image.

While exclusivity can be common for corporate advertising campaigns, it can also be common in the editorial market, particularly in the tabloids and rags where exclusivity to photos of royalty or movie stars are fought over. This is the bread and butter of the paparazzi.

Exclusivity is usually limited by time and territory, and it may also be limited by industry. So a particular advertiser on behalf of her client may purchase an image for exclusive use for 3 years for the banking industry in Brazil. If exclusivity is not limited in this way, you have essentially sold copyright to the image. This is not unheard of, and as the copyright holder you have the right to do that. You should only do it, however, at a price that will more than cover the likely return you may make on the image during the period of time that you are the copyright holder.

Only Rights Managed images can be made available for exclusive licensing. By the nature of the license, Royalty Free images are non-exclusive, simply because once an image is sold to a single client, the license does not allow the copyright holder to control that client's ongoing use of the image.

In the stock photography industry, most image sales tend to be on a non-exclusive basis. Commissioned photography, however, tends to demand exclusivity for the commissioning client for at least a period of time, allowing the client to gain a return on their investment in the commission. This will often be an unspoken expectation by a client and so understanding the nuances of exclusivity and non-exclusivity is vital to negotiating the pitfalls inherent in the industry.

Creative Commons (CC)

Creative Commons licenses are a recent phenomenon. They are legal licenses that were developed by the Creative Commons organisation based in the US and are freely available as a legal means to allow your copyrighted work to be freely shared and to determine the conditions of that sharing.

The Creative Commons community has actually taken on the character of a justice movement. The philosophical underpinnings of it is that all creation derives inspiration from another creation. A society where everyone is free to use other works to inspire further works and derivative works is a society that will maximumly benefit its members. So the Creative Commons organisation was set up with support from the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University in the US and Creative Commons licenses were created.

There are 6 licenses that vary in their openess from a license where anyone can use your work for anything as long as they attribute you as the creator of the work, which is known as the Attribution (CC BY) License, through to the most restrictive license which allows people to use the work as long as they give attribution, they make no commercial use of the work and they do not create any derivatives. This is know as the Attrribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) License and is the license under which this Shutha resource is made available to you.

Creative Commons licenses have been written to conform with international copyright treaties and have been adapted to the local law of over 50 different countries.

FIGURE 3 The Creative Commons logo is a play on the copyright sign. Creative Commons licenses are a very useful mechanism for granting differing rights to the use of your images

The beauty of CC licenses, as they are known, is that if you want to give your work away free of charge, for education for instance, it does not mean you have to give free use to someone wanting to use your photographic work for commercial use. So you can have school children using your photos for free in their school projects, but a media house will need to purchase the same images if they want to publish them in a magazine.

CC licenses are likely to be more widely used in the future and as a photographer needing to earn a return from your work, you may want to think of it as a mechanism to gain free marketing. If you have planned your internet presence well, wide use of your images that are attributed to you and cannot be used for commercial use could be the best way to drive paying traffic your way. Another motivation you may have for using CC licenses is to highlight an issue. Putting it in the public domain where people can freely copy it is one way to do this if the message is packaged well enough. One media house that has done this is Al Jazeera to highlight the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and revolution in the Arab world.