The Editorial license for stock photos seems to live under a cloud of confusion, but it is really, really easy to understand the parameters of its use.
In a nutshell, editorial images can not be used for any commercial use; Royalty-Free stock photos can be used for commercial purposes, but not on resale/retail items.
How editorial images can be used
Editorial licenses are just that, images that can be used for editorial purposes only. Editorial purposes refer to publications when you use an image to illustrate an article, commentary, or written description.
Editorial-licensed images can be used for:
- Editorial purposes: newspapers, magazines, editorials, newsletters
- Non-commercial uses relating to events that are newsworthy or of general interest
Editorial-Use-Only files cannot be used for:
- Any commercial use
- Any advertorial use (sections or supplements featuring brand or product names, or sections or supplements for which you receive a fee from a third party advisor or sponsor)
When do I need to purchase a Royalty Free Licensed stock photo?
If you will be using the image for any commercial (yet non-resale) purposes, you will need a royalty-free image. The list is long and includes themes, templates, marketing campaigns, website images, etc. If you are not sure, either ask the stock photo agency or purchase an image with a royalty-free license just to cover your company. Most stock agency websites that sell editorial images will recommend you to search only royalty-free images if you are still not clear on the uses of editorial licensed images and don't want to risk any misuse, with the consequent legal problems.
Why are editorial licenses different?
The main requirement to use editorial images is to understand how you can and cannot use them. But for the curious stock photo buyer, this is the reason why editorial-licensed images are different, and how a stock photo agency decides whether a photo is issued under an editorial or a royalty-free license.
For a photo to be used commercially, under a royalty-free license, it is necessary that all the visible people, identifiable brands, logos, and trademarked items, as well as locations and private property, are properly authorized for said use through legal release documents.
When images contain one or more of the above-listed subjects without a legal release, said image can only be used for editorial purposes. For example, if a photographer takes a photo of a busy table, and there happens to be a beer bottle on it with its brand showing, but no release from the brand owners is included, then the photo will be for editorial use only.
An example of an editorial photo from iStockphoto
But if the photographer took the same photo of a beer on the table, but the bottle wasn't branded, it would be a royalty-free licensed photo.
Another example: if a photographer takes a photo of people playing on the beach, and they do not get signed releases from said people, this picture will be for editorial use only. If the photographer is able to get model releases signed by all the subjects portrayed, this photo could be licensed as royalty-free.
You might want to check out this post to know more about these licenses.
The stock photography agencies that offer editorial licensed images are Shutterstock, iStock, Dreamstime, and 123RF. Check out this licensing option and see if the stock photos that fall under could be useful for your editorial content.
Image: © diego cervo / iStockphoto