A Picture’s Worth: Copyright Protected, Part 1

Contributed by Geneva Miller.

Photos of your business and your product tell customers a lot about your brand. You can tap a variety of sources to illustrate your digital and print communications, without blowing your budget. But it pays to understand copyright agreements and fair use of images you didn’t shoot on your own.

The best way to land authentic, high quality images is to hire a professional photographer. When you hire an experienced professional, you’re commissioning a portfolio of images you can use for several years. And, professionally contracted photos are the best type to share when you submit a press release or tip to news and entertainment media.

Before you book your session, review or negotiate a fair license for use.

It’s commonplace for contract photographers to retain copyright of the work. Expect the photographer to grant a license that allows you to publish his or her images in print and on the web for unpaid promotion of your business. The license may also extend to paid advertising in publications with a modest circulation, such as local or regional newspapers or magazines.

If you want unrestricted use of the images, negotiate with the photographer to purchase the images and associated copyright.

Use stock photos to augment your image collection. There are several legitimate stock image companies to choose from, including Getty Images, iStock and Adobe Stock.

Expect a broad but not unlimited number of uses allowed with a stock photo license. Read the fine print for restrictions on type of use and situations where the image must be accompanied by photographer credit.
Thanks to Google image caching, you can search and find countless photographs online. Downloading and republishing images without permission is a copyright violation. Stock photo companies routinely search for and find examples of photos used by businesses without legal license. When they do, business owners can be notified with a request to stop using unpaid images, and the business owner can be fined.

Product manufacturers often make promotional photos available to their wholesale customers at no extra cost.

Log into your online wholesale account and search for image or media galleries. (Some companies archive images on a separate site.) The terms of use are typically spelled out on the manufacturer website. Talk with your distributor, or contact the manufacturer directly, if you have questions about accessing images or license for use.

Your customers may take great pics in your business and share those images on social media accounts. If you spot a terrific user-generated image, reach out and request permission to repost or share. And remember to ask how the photographer would like to be credited.

Public Domain– refers to work available for free, either because copyright has expired, or is released by the author (photographer).

Royalty Free– means you pay one time for license to use the photograph instead of paying a royalty each time you use it.

Rights Managed– means you purchase a license to use the image a limited number of times.

Creative Commons– refers to images available for free, but with restrictions, such as author credit or back links for photos published online.