Customer Risks When Using RM Images

Posted on 8/21/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

When Rights Mananged images are represented by multiple distributors it is possible for agencies that had nothing to do with an initial license to collect a fee for secondary uses. Consider this situation.

Back in 2013 a graphic designer was asked to produce 1,000 copies of a brochure for a Washington, DC based company. In this designer’s experience the company requesting the work usually supplies all the images needed because they need very focused images of their particular operations. Consequently, in the normal course of business, there have been relatively few occasions when this designer needed to purchase a stock image.

However, in this instance it was desirable to include a generic image of the U.S. Capitol building at night in the brochure. The designer found a satisfactory image at the World of Stock, a small Canadian stock photo distributor, and licensed use of the photo for the brochure. (World of Stock closed its website on May 1, 2015)

The image in question was taken by a photographer who lives in California, and supplied to Stock Connection on a non-exclusive basis. As is a fairly common practice, the photographer supplied the same image to several other image collections around the world on a non-exclusive basis. One of the agencies that received this image was Nordic Photos in Scandinavia.

Stock Connection had supplied the photographer’s image to World of Stock, one of the more than 40 distributors around the world that represent Stock Connection images. Stock Connection was paid a share of the money World of Stock received for the use and photographer received his share of what Stock Connection received.

About a year later the designer’s customer decided that it needed a website using the same information and photographs that were in the brochure. The designer, who has been in the business for more than 30 years, says she was well aware that each use of a rights managed image needed to be licensed separately, but in this case, since all the other images involved in the project had come from the customer, she forgot that the image of the Capitol would need to be re-licensed.

Finding The Unauthorized Use

Meanwhile, Nordic Stock that also represents the same image (NORDIC340048) had been searching the Internet for images in its collection. Nordic found the image of the Capitol on the customer’s site. In checking its records Nordic determined that it had never been paid for the use. Nordic’s U.S. License Compliance Services in Seattle, WA sent a demand letter to the website owner saying, “there is no valid license issued to your company for the use of the image” and “Your action is needed within 10 business days to resolve the matter.”

The website owner forwarded the notice to the designer who contacted Nordic immediately. Nordic demanded a $740 settlement payment for the less than one-year use of the image on the website, but agreed to a 30% discount. The designer paid $518.

The designer later realized that the original supplier of the image was Stock Connection and negotiated a separate deal with Stock Connection for continued use of the image on the site.

Lessons Learned

Like many image buyers this designer has learned that, if possible, in the future she should look for images that offer a Royalty Free license. Such a license would allow her customer, at no additional cost, to make additional uses of the images included in the projects she prepares for them. In that way she doesn’t have to remember, a year later, exactly what rights were included in the original license. If her customer happens to make an online use that she is not made aware of, neither she, nor her customer, has to worry about a surprise claim for an additional fee.

In this case it would have been very easy to find a similar Royalty Free photo. The alternative photo might not have been quite as perfect as the one chosen, but it would have easily fulfilled the needs of the client.

Given that the content of almost every print project produced today eventually ends up, in some form or other, on the web, and the fact that once uploaded to the web images tend to stay there forever, more and more image buyers are insisting on royalty free photos as a way of avoiding the possibility of this kind of future problem.

Image creators should recognize that this is one of the reasons for the decline in the use of Rights Managed images.

Copyright © 2015 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Jean-pierre Lescourret Posted Aug 22, 2015
    I hope that Jim has not discovered this matter in 2015…..

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