Copyright infringement is a serious issue for photographers. They make a living selling and licensing their creative works.
The issue is that people freely publish their work online. That’s lost income for photographers. Photographers are fighting back, and one was successful in suing Microsoft for $2.5 million.
Your business could unknowingly break copyright laws because you downloaded or shared an image without understanding the various image licenses.
It’s your job to know what the license terms are. If you don’t, you might get sued, and you can’t claim ignorance. Read on to know what the image licenses mean so you can download and post safely.
1. Public Domain
U.S. copyrights have an expiration date. Anything created before 1978 has valid copyright for 95 years. Anything after 1978 has a claim for the life of the creator plus 70 years.
After that, the works are in the public domain, which means they’re free to use. Public domain also includes works published by the federal government and its agencies.
Just because an image is old, it doesn’t mean that it’s in the public domain. There are plenty of older images that are licensed for business or personal use.
2. Royalty Free
This is a type of image license that lets you purchase an image once and use it as many times as you like. Many stock photography sites use this image license type.
If you’re going to use a royalty image for business purposes, check the license. There are probably limits as to what you can do. For instance, if you were using an image for t-shirts, a license would only cover so many prints.
In that case, you’d have to get a royalty free extended license.
3. Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that protects creators and publishers by creating a number of licenses.
Most Creative Commons licenses require attribution, meaning you have to credit the creator in your work. Creative Commons has specific guidelines on how to do this.
There’s also Creative Common 0 license, which is similar to public domain licensing.
4. Commercial Usage
If you’re searching for images for business purposes, you have to look beyond the fine print and license type. Many photo repositories have an added license to the ones already mentioned.
Creators determine if their work gets used in business-related projects or personal projects. If you’re using stock images for business purposes, make sure that you use images with a commercial license.
Most of the time, you’ll see something like “free for commercial usage” or they’ll say if you need to pay for a commercial license.
Understanding Image Licenses Is Good Business
Running a business is challenging enough. You don’t want to make it impossible by infringing on someone’s copyright. A lawsuit or even the threat of a lawsuit costs your business thousands of dollars.
The image licenses in this article give you an overview of the basic license terms. If you’re not sure about an image’s license or copyright status, don’t download it.
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