Press Release Use Of Images

Posted on 10/7/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Recently, Tyler Olson discovered by searching Google that one of his images ( had been used on over 1,640 web sites. However, all these uses were not the result of multiple sales, but of a single sale to the Netropolitan Club.

You’ll note by comparing the above image with image 196440920 on Shutterstock that in Tyler’s original image there was nothing on the screen of the laptop that the man was showing his seatmate. Evidently, the Netropolitan Club had inserted some document (presumably their application form) on the laptop. Since virtually all the images found on Google were the Netropolitan Club version they were somehow picked up from that source.

Tyler also has the same image on Dreamstime (37130033) and Fotolia (59313152). I don’t know where the Netropolitan Club licensed the image. I also checked Depositphotos and while many images from the same shoot are on Depositphotos they seem to have rejected this particular image when it was submitted. In all likelihood Tyler has also submitted images from the same shoot to several other microstock sites.

Since a lot of the users of the Netropolitan version of the image appear to be news organizations (New York Daily News, for example) it seems possible that Netropolitan Club sent out a press release to promote their organization and included this image. If that is the case there are at least two things to consider:
    (1) Is it legal to distribute an image licensed from a microstock site in a press release with the hope that multiple recipients will distribute the image in a variety of ways?
    (2)  If such a use is not allowed under a Standard License, is it covered if the customers purchases an Extended License?
Using Shutterstock license as an example, under the short definitions an Unlimited “License duration” for Unlimited “Website viewers” is granted. However, there is a note that “Certain usage restrictions may apply” and the user is referred to the 3,895 word Terms of Service.  (This is more or less the way the license agreements on all microstock sites work.)

Under YOU MAY NOT section of the TOS there are terms like “redistribute, provide access to,” “give …, or otherwise transfer to anyone, an image or the right to use an Image.” However, other language makes these statements less clear and on the whole probably confuse the customer when it comes to a use in a “press release.” Nowhere in the Shutterstock TOS is the concept of a “press release” mentioned.

In today’s world bloggers tend to get more and more of the editorial information they publish from other web sites. Seldom do bloggers do original reporting and analysis. Even when they comment about a story they saw somewhere else, they often grab the image connected to the original story to make their web site more appealing.

In case of the Netropolitan Club the story line on many of the blogs disparaged the organization and referred to it as an “online country club for people with too much money.” I’m sure this wasn’t part of the Netropolitan Club press release.

Not only are the image creators losing from this kind of use, but the microstock sites are also losing. As Jo Ann Snover pointed out on “It’d be nice if this type of ‘syndication rights’ license was something all the agencies explicitly offered in the extended license uses.”

Microstock sites do place limits on uses of the images on products that can be sold “including, by way of example only, postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters, giclee prints, wallpaper, artwork and other items,” and charge additional fees when customers want to make these types of uses. It wouldn’t hurt to put a similar limitation on uses for Press Releases.

Copyright © 2014 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:  


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