Images are central pillars of a brand, having a profound effect on the way in which it is perceived externally. Images equally have an important role in internal communication, in the form of presentations, stationery, posters and every day emails.
Image sourcing – 10 gotchasWithout due care and knowledge, it is all too easy to breach copyright or intellectual property ownership rights. Legal action against you and/ or associated fines can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. What should you look out for, and how can you avoid the risk of fines or legal action?
Paid, Free and Bespoke ImagesAt the highest level, there are 3 ways of sourcing images for use by an organisation:
- Paid Images: Images where you purchase a license to use an image, whether this is in perpetuity, or licensed on a recurring basis.
- Free Images: Images that have no purchase or license cost attached.
- Bespoke Images: Images that you create yourself, or that are created on your behalf by a 3rd party
Paid image platformsThere are numerous image sourcing platforms out there. The model is simple – you purchase a license for use of an image. An important qualification is that you are buying a license for usage – you’re not buying the image. Each site has it’s own niche, comprised of:
- Search capabilities
- Licensing models
“Free” image platformsFor each paid image platform, there’s a “free” one. I’ve put free in parentheses for a reason. Every site has some terms and conditions that you should be aware of, however simple or reasonable they are. While there may be no exchange of money, there may be obligations that you are required to fulfil. The most common of these obligations is that you credit the original creator – who still owns the copyright to the original material, whether they have chosen to share it for free or not. My favourite “free” site at the moment is www.pexels.com. I like the images they carry, it’s simple to use, and there’s a nice range of subjects, composition and styles.
Search EnginesPossibly the biggest and most common source of “free” images are search engines, such as Google and Yahoo. It would be a mistake to assume that what’s available via search engines is freely available for commercial or even non-commercial use. Advanced Search settings allow some filtering by license type, but it is still incumbent on the person downloading the image to know the usage rights and limitations. Other common sources, that frequently pop up via Google or elsewhere are Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and (less so these days) Flickr. Once again, you must check the usage rights.
10 gotchasIt’s not practical to list out all of the licensing options available across all of the image platforms. There are myriad considerations, each platform is different, the landscape changes, and I don’t want to be sued myself! The following are the major points to be aware of:
- Does your license allow you to manipulate the image?
- Does your license allow your agencies to use your account to download and manipulate images on your behalf?
- Is your license per seat, per named user, per download or # of downloads per month?
- Are you required to credit the original source?
- Are you licensed for non-commercial and/ or commercial use?
- Does your license cover all media (e.g. TV, Print, Digital etc.)?
- Does your license cover all quantities (e.g. volume thresholds)?
- Does your license cover all usages (e.g. promotional merchandise)?
- Are you buying the image Royalty Free, or licensing it on a recurring and ongoing basis?
- Are there geographical limitations regarding usage?