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What Royalty-Free Really Means

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What Royalty-Free Really Means for Imagery is not what most people think it is. Here’s our easy to understand explanation.

Unfortunately, when talking about imagery, it doen’t mean images are free. The term Royalty-Free should probably be renamed “Exclusivity and Time-Frame Free”. It would probably be less confusing..

In the old days, before the arrival of the digital cameras. Photographers used to sell photos “exclusivity” to company during a “certain period of time” for large amounts of money.

They didn’t had to sell a lot of photos, to make good a good living. They used to call this system “Royalty Managed“. Photographers “could not sell an image to someone else”, during that time period.

When Digital cameras came into the market and became affordable to most people, things changed a bit.  More and more people were able to make and sell their images on the internet, and images offering exploded and exceded the demand. When it happened, prices went down abruptly.

To compensate for the lower prices, photographers started to offer their photography, without the exclusivity or time limitation, at much lower prices.

That way, they could offer the same image to many more people at the same time. They call this new system “Royalty-Free”, when in fact, they should have called it “Exclusivity and Timeframe Free”.

Legal trouble

People that don’t understand the real sense of royalty-free can find themself in big legal trouble very fast. Company like Getty Images Collection sues people that use their photos without permission, very fast and quite hard. Even if you already have the images in your possession, you still have to pay rights to use them.

And Images that have logos on them, can only be used for promotional purpose. Like this one:

What Royalty-Free Really Means

Companies like Istockphoto, Getty, Shutterstock, Fotolia and all the others, are selling their Images as “Royalty-Free”, but none of them are free.

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Read our other blog postings, for more useful hints on photography:

What an “HDR” Images really is.

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