Royalty-Free Images

An image such as a drawing or photograph is typically protected by copyright. If you want to use an image that you did not create, you generally must obtain specific permission from the copyright-holder and agree on the terms of use. One common commercial agreement is known as a royalty-free license to use an image.

A royalty-free (RF) image license is much less restrictive than an RM license. A user typically pays a one-time fee for a royalty-free image license and can then use the image as many times and in as many places as he chooses. The “free” in royalty-free does not mean there is no cost for the license, but instead refers to being able to freely use the image without paying additional royalties. A small-business owner, for example, may opt to pay a one-time fee for RF images for his website.

Sources of Royalty free images.

Many companies sell RF licenses for stock images from their collections. Corbis Images and Getty Images are two of the oldest and most well-known image supply houses. Many online services, such as istockphoto and shutterstock, also supply RF photos, artwork and other images. Businesses can also contract with an individual copyright-holder, such as a photographer or graphic artist, for an RF license for an image.

Copyright-Free Images

Not all images require a fee or a license before using them in your business product. Images in the public domain are not copyright-protected and can be used by anyone for any purpose. Any image created prior to 1923 is no longer protected by U.S. copyright and is in the public domain. Images created by the U.S. government are also public domain regardless of the date of creation. Some copyright holders voluntarily place images in the public domain in collections such as The Commons at Flickr, and these can also be freely used without obtaining a license.


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