How to Use Stock Photos Without Facing Legal Consequences

How to Use Stock Photos Without Facing Legal Consequences

Stock photographs are a common asset that many professionals utilize to fill the visual gap in their marketing material.

And why shouldn’t they be?

Stock photographs are a readily available collection of images in limitless categories, enabling the marketers to use them for virtually any platform. They are also high-quality with enhanced focus on the standards to make them visually appealing to the onlookers. Above all, most stock photographs are free to use and allow marketers to affordably add visual imagery to their content without contacting a photography business.

However, many people are surprised to know that there are potential legal consequences of using stock photographs when you don’t fully understand the licensing details, copyright, and model releases. Yes, if you are planning to use the creative assets in your marketing strategy, you should be aware of these terms and the possible outcomes of violating the law.

So, in this guide, we have put together all the information about stock photographs, it’s license requirements, and copyright issues. We will also discuss the best practices of using stock images to avoid lawsuits and other possible problems.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the details.

Free Stock Photo Sites – The Problem

Stock photos are available in both – free and paid modules. However, if you are using images from a free stock photo site, you will most often see a Creative Commons Zero license associated with each illustration.

With this type of license, it means that the creator/author of the photographer has forfeited all image rights to the respective website. In return, the user (you) is allowed to copy, modify, distribute, and adapt the images without taking any type of consent. In other words, you are allowed to use the pictures in any way you want – without taking the photographer’s permission.

In most cases, there is nothing wrong with using a free stock photo that comes with a Creative Commons Zero license. And most marketers are fans of these images and use them widely on their professional and personal projects.

But there is a small challenge for online publishers in these types of photos. Yes the photographer has given up his or her rights to the image itself but many pictures depict people and private properties. What happens with them?

The truth is that not many creators (and users) are aware that ‘subjects’ such as included in images are protected by copyright and privacy laws. Examples of these subjects include:

  • Identifiable person or pet
  • Private properties
  • Government buildings
  • Landmarks
  • Logo/Brand

Any of the subjects above should give written consent or ‘model release’ before appearing in an image released to the public – whether it’s free or paid.

Failure to follow the ‘law’ falls into the category of ‘image stealing’ and can result in a lawsuit. So just be sure to consider these details when using free stock sites.

What About Google Images?

Besides free stock photo sites, many online publishers fall into the temptation to download just about any photo from Google search and utilize it on their own platform. However, these photos are not for use and belong to their respective websites. Google is merely a search platform and showing the images that are available on the internet.

In fact, the images that appear in Google search results are usually protected by copyright and using them without proper permission can result in infringement that ranges from fines, lawsuits, and take down notices to the website/blog.

How To Use Stock Images Without Facing Legal Trouble

Despite the potential legal trouble, you can use stock photos freely in your marketing material. All you have to do is be careful about a few things that will help you avoid legal infringement. These include:

Using Paid Stock Photo Sites

Contrary to free stock photo agencies, paid stock photos offer much more resilience to legal implications. This is because they screen each image that comes for implications thoroughly and ask for model releases to protect the users.

When using images from paid stock photo sites, you will also see different licenses that give users the flexibility to utilize pictures in a commercial medium. Understand each license carefully and abide by the terms and conditions to ensure you remain protected from any potential legal consequence.

For example, there is the ‘Royalty-Free license’ that enables you to use the images as many times as you want after paying a flat one-time fee.

Then there is the ‘Rights Managed license’ that offers images for a specific period of time. They even offer extended licenses that allow online vendors to print the images on saleable merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, and posters.

Above all, paid stock photos are more exclusive than free ones as they are not as common. You will also find them of better quality and in numerous niches to help you illustrate your marketing material more effectively. And even with a price tag, these images are quite affordable and sold for pennies.

Final Words

Stock images provide a perfect solution to the marketers who are looking to add visual interest to their blog, website, and social media marketing campaigns. With a handy stock photograph, you don’t need to invest in custom photography and avail similar results at a fraction of cost.

The only catch is that you have to be careful when choosing stock photographs. By remaining vigilant about the licenses and model releases, you will surely be able to avoid potential legal trouble. Good luck

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