Photographic Licensing explained
Photographic image licensing costs are also sometimes referred to as Creative Usage Fees, and are generally a reflection of the overall value photography work provides to the client.
Photographic licensing works along very similar
lines to the music and film industries, artists,
writers, and many other creative professionals.
Even software programmers and inventors utilise
licensing of their works. Wedding & portrait photographers also utilise a version of licensing, by retaining the digital files and making ongoing sales of prints and other products to the client, sometimes for many years into the future.
In Australia, the USA, and many other countries
around the world, copyright is automatically held
by the author of a work, whether photographic,
artistic, literary, or other. This allows the
author to charge for the usage of those works.
See our page on copyright
for more information.
For example, if an artist were commissioned by
a gallery (or private client for that matter)
to produce a painting, they would be able to hang
that painting on their wall. Say, for instance
the client then wanted to print postcards of the
artwork, or print it in a book, they would still
need to request permission from the artist and
pay an additional licensing fee for the rights
to reproduce the artwork. Similarly if a writer
is approached to produce a film from one of his
novels, a fee is paid to him for the exclusive
rights to develop the story into a script, usually
with a time limit after which an additional fee
is paid, or the rights become open again for other
film-makers to request.
Licensing costs are very small relative to the
overall advertising or marketing expenditure,
and are an important factor in ensuring that the
photographic industry remains focused on quality
and creativity. This allows photographers to produce
great results for clients, whilst guaranteeing
fair compensation for images that provide good
How licensing works
Licensing can be specific as to the conditions
under which works can be used.
|For example, a work can be licensed
for use with the following conditions;
||Usage of a work is allowed for a certain
amount of time or between certain dates.
||Typical usage period may be 1 or 2 years,
afterwhich the license can be renewed or lapsed
as required. A writer may license their work
to a film producer for a period of 2 years,
to develop a script. If within that period
the producer has developed a script they believe
will create a good film, they can purchase
the film rights, otherwise they would let
the rights lapse.
|Area or Region
||Usage of a work is allowed within a specific
||A work would be licensed for use in Australia,
or Asia, or Europe for example. Additional
regions or territories could be added at any
||Usage of a work is allowed for specific
purposes or publishing requirements. Differing
fee structures may apply for usage in advertising,
editorial, or retail.
||A musician may license their work to be
used in a TV commercial, in a film, or as
elevator music for example. Each way in which
a work is published would incur a licensing
fee for that purpose. This also means that
a client does not need to pay for purposes
they will not be using.
||Use of a work is exclusive or non-exclusive
to the licensee
||A licensee may wish to have exclusive use
of a work so that competitors may not utilise
it in a similar fashion. This license affords
the licensee some of the benefits of copyright
protection in that if someone else utliises
the work during the exclusivity period, they
may take action against them. If a license
has previously been given to another party,
an exclusive license may not be available.
Sometimes a client will wish to purchase all
the rights associated with a set of images. This
is referred as a "License Buyout" which would includes usage rights for anywhere in the world, for any media, without time limit. As you can see, most businesses will never need such wide ranging rights. Due
to the considerable cost of purchasing all rights,
this option only tends to be taken up by large
clients who have multinational interests across
a wide range of advertising and marketing media,
who will get suitable use from the images. A typical
fee for full image buyout, of a full day shoot
for example, can be upward of $15,000.
Another concern that often arises is about the
cost of licenses negotiated at a later date. It
is possible, at the time of the original commission,
to negotiate licensing rates for particular usages.
If specific future usage is not known, it is also
possible to negotiate a Base Usage Rate or "BUR"
against which future licensing can be determined
according to standard figures set out by various
profesisonal photographic associations around
the world. BUR is set as a dollar amount, and
particular usages are determined as a percentage
of that rate.
A further alternative that is often taken are
licensing "Packages". These packages
wrap up a set of typical usages in one bundle,
which is offered at a reduced rate.
Prices for much stock photography are determined in
exactly the same way as shown above. When purchasing stock images using the above model, this is know as "Rights Managed", Some stock images are sold as "Royalty Free" which means the purchaser is able to use them for almost any purpose as much as they like, however the use is non-exclusive which means other businesses may be sold the same image to use for their marketing also.
commission a photographer however, you are getting the
benefit of being able to plan and direct the shoot
to acheive exactly the results you are after rather
than relying upon an already existing set of images,
as well as the additional flexibility gained from
the range of images captured on a shoot.
Stock images are often cost effective and comparitive
when there is only a requirement for 1 or 2 images,
however beyond this it is often more cost effective
to commission your own photography, even when
including production charges.
Consideration should also be taken for the sometimes large number of hours that can be donated to finding appropriate images on stock photography websites, especially discount ones. This can be somewhat alleviated when utilising good quality stock agencies as they will often provide a service to narrow the search and provide results for your given criteria.
For further information on image licensing
Organisation, or Picture Licensing Universal
System, details a format for image licensing that
is being taken up around the world. Visit The PLUS Coalition website for more information.