“Rights-Managed” Licensing in Stock Photography

Rights-Managed (RM) is one of the two most common licensing structures in the stock photography industry. The term refers to the type of license you will be given for the particular image. A rights-managed license allows a one-time use of the image, with additional uses requiring the purchase of additional licenses.

What is the difference between the common licensing structures?

Rights-Managed (RM) and Royalty-Free (RF) are the most common types of stock photo licenses. There are many differences between the two licenses, so it is important that you understand what is and isn’t included with each license.

Rights-Managed licensing is the more rigid of the two licenses. Not only do you have to pay per use, you also need to be aware of when the license may expire. If the image is still being used after the license expiration date, you are infringing on the terms of the agreement and will be held accountable. It is important to read through all of the terms of the license.

Royalty-Free licensing provides a much looser agreement for the use of the image. You will likely only have to pay one time for the license and you can use the image “in perpetuity,” which means for as long as you need. Royalty-free images are very low maintenance, with no future payments for licensing or royalties required.

Regardless of the license you choose for the purchased image, you will still have to adhere to copyright laws. Copyright protects the photographer from piracy or unauthorized use of the image. This includes going to another photographer and identically recreating the image. The copyright laws do vary from country to country, so be sure to understand the restrictions and consequences of using others’ work.

Which license is best for my project?

Based on the audience and medium for your project, you will have to evaluate which license will be most cost-effective and practical for what you are looking to accomplish. Royalty-free images may cost more due to the size of the image you want to license or simply because you are receiving a license to use in perpetuity. However, the rights-managed license will greatly restrict the amount and length of the photo’s usage, so it might be worth the money to invest in a royalty-free license. If you are planning a project such as the design of a company’s logo, you will most definitely want to find a rights-managed  license for an image. If you are looking to make a one-time poster for a concert, then a  royalty-free license may be all you need. It is important to make sure you read up on the terms of each and every stock photo provider, as the agreements are bound to change from one company to another. It is your responsibility to know your rights and restrictions and adhere to them.

Image: © Horticulture / Fotolia

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus on providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography like WordPress plugins. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.

1 Comment
  1. Just thought I would mention that although a simple informative piece which clearly demonstrates the difference between these two photographic rights, in summary (last paragraph) the author uses the wrong license for each example which should be the other way round…May be worth amending to avoid confusion!

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