What is Stock Photo Rights Management?

What is Stock Photo Rights Management?

If your company is like most, you likely leverage third-party images, as well as audio and video content, when the need arises. It’s not practical or cost-effective to maintain an on-site photo studio – unless stock photography is in fact what your company does. For the rest of us, though, it’s easier and more cost-effective to license third-party content. The challenge lies in effectively managing those licenses, which will generally vary in terms of valid usage and the duration of usage. Here’s what you need to know to effectively manage stock photo rights and why it matters.

Definition of Stock Photo Rights Management


Stock photo rights management is a process for storing, categorizing, and labeling licensed stock photos (often video and audio assets, too) to easily identify relevant assets with valid usage rights and an appropriate duration. It’s an important component of marketing resource management (MRM). Stock photo rights generally fall into two broad categories:

  • Royalty Free (RF) Images – An RF image license grants the user (the purchaser or End User) basic usage rights, royalty-free. Images with an RF license can typically be used repeatedly (up to the allowable total number of uses) and across various mediums, provided that the usage falls under the permitted uses. Valid uses are explained in detail in the stock photo license agreement.
  • Rights Managed (RM) ImagesRights managed images are those that are licensed for use temporarily, with pricing based on a per-use basis. Licensing fees may be determined based on the estimated number of individuals who will potentially see the image. That may mean the number of people who view an ad that the photo is used in, the number of visitors to a website that features the photo, etc., depending on how the photo will be used. Pricing may also vary based on the display size of the photo, placement, medium, or how long it will be used.

The main benefit to RM images, while they’re considerably more expensive compared to RF images, is that you’re granted exclusive use of the photo. So if you’re using stock photos on brand assets, for example, your competitors won’t be plastering the same stock photo on their assets; your company maintains exclusive usage rights for the duration of the license.

How Stock Photo Rights Management Works

Many companies make use of both license types, meaning you’ll need a way to distinguish RF images from RM images in your asset repository (at a minimum). But, remember that individual photo rights may vary, so it’s imperative to read and fully understand the license agreement before licensing any stock photo.

In the case of a stock photo with a limited duration of use, failing to either renew the license or remove the image could constitute a copyright infringement. In this example, a simple RF vs. RM license designation falls short of effective stock photo rights management. Most companies require a more robust solution to effectively manage rights and avoid infringements.

A good stock photo rights management solution allows for categorization, tagging, and other metadata, as well as workflows, access control, and alerts to notify the right people of an impending license expiration so they can take the appropriate action. Robust search functionality saves users hours of time finding the right stock photo with the appropriate allowable usage and license duration, while access controls ensure that only authorized users have access to photos and other assets with restricted rights.

Benefits of Stock Photo Rights Management

woman looking through binoculars surrounded by photographs

Stock photo rights management not only makes it easy to find the right stock photo for any purpose without spending hours wading through options you can’t actually use, but it also helps you to avoid a few possible negative outcomes including:

  • Unnecessary re-licensing – When you’re not clear on the usage rights and duration of an asset, you might be inclined to re-license a photo to play it safe. The end result is spending more money than you need to.
  • Wasted time tracking down relevant assets – The same is true if you have previously licensed photos that are suitable for the purpose, but you can’t locate them in your disorganized storage repository. If you’ve already spent hours searching for the right photo, you’ve lost some valuable time in addition to the cost of unnecessary re-licensing.
  • Copyright infringement -No one wants to get slapped with a copyright infringement lawsuit. Even if you’re not setting out to infringe on a photographer’s copyright, you could inadvertently overextend your valid use of an image without adequate stock photo rights management.

Effective stock photo rights management is a time-saving, cost-saving solution that helps organizations avoid costly legal ramifications from unintentional infringements or invalid usage of licensed stock photos. That’s why MerlinOne’s DAM solution is designed with these needs in mind, making it easy for publishers, newspapers, and businesses of all stripes to effectively manage stock photo rights alongside their other digital assets for a single source of truth. To find out how much money your company could be saving with digital asset management, visit our Digital Asset Management ROI Calculator.

Ready to eliminate the risks of ineffective stock photo rights management? Schedule a demo with MerlinOne today to start reaping the benefits of streamlined workflows, centralized, comprehensive rights management, and complete visibility and control over all of your organization’s digital assets.

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