image usage rights

Whether you are buying or selling image usage, the rights to use photography, illustration, and other types of media varies and depends on a number of factors. Following is a brief explanation of the different types of image usage rights.


When hiring photographers, illustrators, or other types of creative services (i.e. designers, song writers, videographers), a contract stating the terms of licensing should be agreed upon. This is in addition to a detailed description of the type of work that will be produced and the timeframe that it is to be produced in. It’s important to understand that the rights to use the artwork are being contracted, not the copyright of the work itself. Like royalty free and rights managed imagery, the license usually applies only to the client contracting the services and for the specific project that the artwork is being created for. If the client wants to use the artwork for additional projects, a usage fee will most likely be applied.


Licensing the rights to use content such as photographs, illustrations, or other media (i.e. audio, video) occurs when the seller of the license gives permission to the buyer to use the content in a specific way. Typically this includes restrictions on the length of time, the medium, the size, the format and the location of use.


Photos, illustrations, or types of media (i.e. audio, video) that are sold for a single standard fee and may be used repeatedly by the purchaser are considered royalty free. Usually the individual or organization that sells you the images still owns all rights to the images, and they are allowed for use only by the purchaser (i.e. the same images cannot be used by another company or individual without repurchase).


Creative Commons provides free licenses and other tools to designate creative content for sharing, remixing, commercial use, or a combination of these.

Creative Commons licenses enable people to easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” is not a search engine but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations.

Some of the organizations offering Creative Commons licenses for images, audio, and other types of media are Google, Yahoo, Blip TV, and Flickr.