When it comes to stock images, two licenses are primarily used. The first one is a rights-managed license. A rights-managed license gives the user the right to use the image one time. Any more than that, and it can be seen as a violation of the license.
The other license type is called royalty-free. Royalty-free gives you many more rights than a rights-managed license and is much more widespread than the standard RM license.
Whatever you license a photo from a microstock agency, chances are it is a royalty-free license. Royalty-free licenses have several things in common from one agency to another. However, one must still read the fine print because there are subtle differences that a microstock agency might impose.
Certainly, royalty-free licenses are the most affordable and widely used. For what reasons then, my these cheap stock photos encounter restrictions?
1. For Larger Budget Buyers That Need Exclusive Images.
The audiences of some of the larger microstock agencies out there include bigger budget buyers. These entities usually include entire marketing teams – or greater yet, entire marketing firms. In this case, larger budget buyers that need exclusive images would not be served well with cheap stock photos.
2. For Authorship Purposes without an Extended License.
The biggest advantage of a royalty-free license is the ability to use it for commercial purposes. However, one of the greatest and most common restrictions of a royalty-free license includes claiming authorship of the image. Restricted uses include using them on calendars, holiday cards, T-shirts, mugs, or any other medium that contains the image that you intend to sell as your own work.
It’s not that you can’t use these images for these purposes at all. You can – just not with the royalty-free license. Most microstock agencies offer an extended license for these purposes.
3. For Online Use When the Resolution Is Wrong.
Many of the microstock agencies that offer cheap stock images only offer them at preset resolutions. These resolutions are usually smaller than what is typically desired for online reproduction purposes. You may use these images for commercial uses such as in promotional material. However, if these files aren’t up to par because you need a higher resolution, then cheap stock photos may not be your solution.
Royalty-free licenses will vary from one agency to another. Make sure you read the fine print. While you may find many similarities, you may also find other, subtle differences as well.