Usage rights in terms of photos have been the topic of many discussions between myself and clients. For many of them, the concept of intellectual property (IP) and limited usage rights have been a very confusing one. To simplify the explanation, I have quoted four phrases pertaining to IP from wikipedia:

1. Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images. Artistic works include photos.
2. IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.
3. The intangible nature of intellectual property presents difficulties when compared with traditional property like land or goods. Unlike traditional property, intellectual property is indivisible – an unlimited number of people can 'consume' an intellectual good without it being depleted. Additionally, investments in intellectual goods suffer from problems of appropriation – while a landowner can surround their land with a robust fence and hire armed guards to protect it, a producer of information or an intellectual good can usually do very little to stop their first buyer from replicating it and selling it at a lower price.
4. Copyright infringement is reproducing, distributing, displaying or performing a work, or to make derivative works, without permission from the copyright holder, which is typically a publisher or other business representing or assigned by the work's creator. It is often called ‘piracy’.

Each single image, or body of images sold by me to any client, will be bound by some form of usage agreement. This agreement is different for each shoot and is occasionally customised to best suit the client or specific case. This agreement is usually discussed via email beforehand or included on the final invoice. The two most common cases would be full commercial usage, and limited digital only (website & social media) usage.

Full commercial usage: This means the client most likely commissioned me to do a planned photo shoot, after which they are entitled to use all the images as many times as they’d like, across all platforms and mediums. They may impose their logo, edit, crop and combine images as they like. The one main limitation is that this client may not pass on or sell these images on to any other brand or company. In other words, no redistribution. Only the company/brand/entity that paid for the photo shoot or image(s), may use them. No affiliate or associate company/brand/entity may use these images unless otherwise agreed in writing.

Limited digital only usage: Typically for smaller businesses who need images for their websites and social media platforms. The images are typically provided in a slightly smaller resolution @ 72dpi (not full resolution @ 300dpi). This option is considerably cheaper than full commercial rights because of the limited usage. As with full commercial rights, the client may not pass on or sell these images on to any other brand or company. In other words, no redistribution. Only the company/brand/entity that paid for the photo shoot or image(s), may use them. No affiliate or associate company/brand/entity may use these images unless otherwise agreed in writing.

Stock images: Clients buying stock images from my archive, will typically commit to one of the two types of rights above. In some cases exceptions are made when none of the above does the trick, in which case a custom agreement on usage limitations will be made. The client may not pass on or sell these images on to any other brand or company. In other words, no redistribution. Only the company/brand/entity that paid for the photo shoot or image(s), may use them. No affiliate or associate company/brand/entity may use these images unless otherwise agreed in writing.

Though the topic of usage rights is a serious one, this page was not created to deter any client from doing business with me. It’s simply to explain the concepts and differences in usage limitations - to make sure everyone is on the same page. No legal action will likely ever be taken, however future relationships and rates may be affected upon infringements of any agreed usage limitations :)

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