Video Production for Marketers Take 3 Part 2: Legal Stuff / Stock Imagery

Part 2 of the third instalment in a series of posts aimed at demystifying the video production process for the uninitiated marketer.

As I said in Take 3 Part 1, the legal stuff should never be ignored…ever!

If you are a small, local business, you might get away with “borrowing” photos, graphics, or video clips here and there. However, you are risking legal action, penalties, and bad press.

If we all had the talent and the time, we could create our own content top to bottom, including photos and videos. For 99% of us, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. We need to rely on outside sources to fill gaps when creating marketing materials. I’ve used many a stock photo and stock video in my work over the last 10 years.

When I was first introduced to these resources, I was confused about the various types of licensing agreements attached to stock imagery. The term “free” does not necessarily mean free for all. So here’s a quick guide:

Stock Photos, Graphics & Video Clips – Licensing

Assuming that you are creating something for your company/business, you need to make sure you have the rights to use an image for commercial use. Many “free” images can only used for personal use. This should be obvious on whichever site you’re using or you might have to read the terms and conditions. (Yes, I know no one ever does that but, in this case, it’s a good idea to do a quick once over or ask the supplier’s customer service for more info.)

The terminology can vary but here’s the most common lingo:

  • Creative Commons Licences
    • There are some differences between licenses but, in general, imagery under this type of license are free to use for personal and commercial use.
    • Be sure to check whether or not the creator requires attribution when you use the stock images.
      • If attribution is required, you must reference the artist every time you use their work.
      • If attribution is not required, you are free to use the images but it is a nice to do.
  • Royalty-Free Licences
    • Royalty-free does not mean free.
    • It actually means that once you purchase a licence for a particular photo, graphic or video clip:
      • You can use it in one ad or 100 ads. There is no usage limit.
      • There is also no time limit to the licence.
  • Rights-Managed Licences
    • This type of licence comes with the most restrictions. Those can include limits on:
      • Geographical area
      • Type of publication
      • Time, licence has an expiry date
      • Number of copies
    • This is also the most expensive type of stock imagery available.
    • You might have a choice of between an exclusive and non-exclusive licence.
      • Exclusive licences cost more because the supplier can only sell that image to you for the duration of your licensing contract.

Bottom line: Unless you NEED a photo of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or Queen Elizabeth II, choose creative commons and royalty-free licensed images. has a great list of 24+ Sites to Find Free Images You Would Actually Use for Your Marketing. They also give readers more details on types of licences plus info on images in the public domain which I haven’t covered here.

Does licensing *REALLY* matter?

You might remember a news story from January 2019 about a Kentucky billboard sporting a photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family to advertise a local tourist attraction. The advertiser thought it was a great photo and pulled it off Google images without a thought to who the people were or whether they were allowed to use the photo. It could have caused an “international incident.” However, the Trudeau family laughed it off and the advertiser was simply told to take the ad down.

You might not get that lucky!

Have you or someone you know gotten into trouble for using an unlicensed photo, graphic or video? I’d love to hear your story in the Comments below!

The next installment is now available. Take 4: Before Your Shoot – A Checklist

NOTE: This post is meant to be a general guide on the types of licensing you will come across when looking for stock photos, graphics, videos, music, and audio for marketing (i.e. commercial) purposes. Please read the relevant license for each and every stock image/video/audio before dropping it into your marketing collateral.

© 2021 Tracey Copeland, Rolling Sands Consulting.

Published by tracey copeland

Marketer, Creator, Coach | Brand Communications | Strategic Planning | Talented Leader of Diverse, Cross-functional Teams ― Tracey is an award-winning marketing and communications specialist with a passion for helping others define and reach their goals.

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