Usage Rights Explained

Usage Rights Explained

What the heck is a usage right, you ask? Think about music and movies, just because you see it or listen to it doesn’t give you the freedom to own the rights to it or resell it. The fee you pay to listen to the song to or watch a movie is your usage fee. If you want to use a song in a film, then your usage fee would be much larger than if you listen to it in your car. 

Photography usage fees are much similar. Most people think I paid for the image; its mine, and I can do whatever I please with it. However, this is a large misconception among many consumers. With a large number of images floating around on social media and the internet, copyright law has been forgotten. 

The rights of the images stay with the creator under copyright law, unless otherwise sold. For example, a company hires a photographer to have custom images created. The images created are owned by the creator, the photographer, and a license is sold to the client to use the images! Just because the client paid for the creation of the images does not give the client ownership of the images.  

There are many avenues to usage rights, and the rates can vary widely depending on the client, the brand, and the intended usage of the photography. Some considerations that go into usage rights fees are how will the images be used? What is the exposure? Will the images be used on the company’s website, print materials, print ads, social media, and or billboards? Will they be used locally or nationwide?  

 

You need to know what kind of usage license is being transferred to you when you hire a photographer. For example, usage rights for a Nike campaign would be considerably more than the usage rights for a headshot for 1 Billboard, simply because the exposure is more significant. Generally speaking, the higher the exposure, the larger the fee.

I bring this to your attention simply because most of my clients do not understand usage rights. I want to make sure all my clients are comfortable with their usage rights and understand what it means and what they are purchasing. 

 

As stated, before usage rights can vary greatly. However, the purpose of this article is to share with my clients three of our most basic usage agreements used on our contracts to help our clients better understand what it means for them.

 

A Non-Exclusive, Unlimited License grants the licensee (you) the right to use the images for an indefinite time. It also means that the Licensor (kp studios) remains free to use, share or sell the same photos and to allow any number of other licensees (another company, stock agency, etc.) also to use the same images as long as they do not include any Licensee company branding (anything that would denote your company name or a personal headshot).

 

An Exclusive, Limited License grants to the licensee (you) the right to use the images. It also means that the Licensor (kp studios) can not and will not sell the licensed photos to anyone else for a limited time, determined by the contact (usually one to three years). It also means at the end of usage term; the client no longer has the right to use the iamges and must remove them from marketing materials, websites, etc. unless the License is extended. It does, however, allow the Licensor (kp studios) the right to use the images for our portfolio and our marketing usage, we retain the copyright to all of our images. 

 

Exclusive, Unlimited Usage License allows the licensee (you) the right to use the images. It also means that the Licensor (kp studios) can not and will not sell the licensed photos to anyone else ever; they are forever yours. It does, however, allow the Licensor (kp studios) the right to use the images for our portfolio and marketing usage, we retain the copyright to all of our images. 

 

In general, the fewer rights the License (the creator) has to the images for future usage, the higher the license fee. 

The licensee (you) can choose to extend your licenses at the end of your contract. This allows the client time to see if they still need the images at a future date. The client does not have to purchase the additional License at the time of the photoshoot. 

 

Here are some things to consider when trying to determine what type of usage rights you need and how long you need them. Is your product-specific? Would you want a competitor using your images? Will your products or employees change drastically in the next year to three years? Will you want updated images in one to three years? Sometimes it is beneficial to own the pictures forever, and sometimes it’s not. 

 

We like our clients to be fully informed and to be aware of what they are purchasing and what it means. Regardless of the usage rights, no images that have your company name or logo on them should ever be used or sold without your permission.  

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