Whether or not you’re interested in rights and licensing of images, if you’re at all involved in photo research, selection and use, it’s important to know some key facts about the process. Educational and ELT books tend to be quite image heavy, and those images come with some very clear legal requirements. As much as we may want to, we can’t just use any image they find on Google to illustrate their text, and we have to pay for them!
In this post, we’ll take a look at the differences between two of the licensing models that are most frequently used in stock photography – rights managed and royalty free.
When using a rights managed (RM) image, the rights to use the image are supplied on a strictly limited basis, determined by the scope and scale of the project – e.g. the territory, print run, and the various media in which the image will appear (print, ebook, online use, etc). Traditionally, RM image rights have been supplied on the basis of a one-off use, though increasingly suppliers are offering RM image rights with much broader releases, including product family (i.e. permission to use the image in all components associated with a lead title – essential in today’s multi-volume ELT courses), unlimited print run, multiple reuses within a component, etc. The images tend to be topical and good for working to specific briefs.
Within the context of rights-managed and royalty-free images, both of which can usually be cropped and edited, there are also editorial images, which cannot be altered without explicit permission from the rights holder, and only as long as the editorial integrity of the photograph isn’t compromised. These images usually come without model releases (i.e. the people in the photos haven’t given permission for the image to be commercially distributed), and can therefore be used only in an editorial context, such as within an educational title. In these cases, use in more commercial contexts, such as merchandising, is usually forbidden. Topical, news-related images are often distributed under editorial-only licences.
Royalty free (RF) images on the other hand, are supplied with much broader rights and can be used pretty much without restriction by the licensee – e.g. multiple times and in multiple projects, with no limit on print run. This type of licence allows the customer to do almost anything they want with the image, including editing and cropping it any way they wish. The images from low-cost microstock sites such as Shutterstock, Fotolia and Thinkstock are licensed on a royalty-free basis, which makes these suppliers an attractive resource for the cost-conscious publisher, though RF images from mid-range suppliers can be significantly more expensive, depending on the individual price agreements between the library and the publisher. RF images are usually quite generic in nature, so are great for representing concepts, actions and objects.
Regardless of the license type (RM or RF) any image you use in a publication must be credited properly, which you can usually see in the imprints of all printed books.
Examples of RM and RF libraries:
- For rights-managed and mid-range royalty-free images that include both generic imagery and more specific choices, try Getty, Corbis, Alamy, etc.
- For editorial and specialist libraries for very specific briefs, try Mary Evans, The Kobal Collection, Science Photo Library, National Geographic, Rex Features etc.
- And for simple royalty-free shots, try Shutterstock, Thinkstock, 123RF, iStock etc.
If you’re interested in which photo libraries to use and choosing the right image, see Using stock images in ELT materials design. For the more licensing-savvy of our readers, keep an eye out for our post on creative commons licensing. If you have any other questions for our Creative Content team, let us know in the comments section below.