RF, RM And Model Releases

Posted on 11/27/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

“Must all Royalty Free photos be model released?” This question came from a stock agent who is considering converting his collection from RM to RF.

The answer is NO. An increasing number of images are being offered under a Royalty Free License for Editorial Use Only. What the Editorial Use Only means is that “we don’t have a model release for this image,” and thus it can not be used for commercial purposes.

While most licensors of RF images would prefer to have a valid model release for every image in their collection, they realize that it is impossible to get releases for certain images that have news value. They also realize that there are editorial customers who would be happy to pay them money for access to such images and use them for editorial, not commercial purposes. Thus, increasingly RF companies offer some customers images for editorial use only.

A Royalty Free license has nothing to do with whether an image is released or not. It simply means that for a one-time fee the customer can use the image multiple. In most cases there are a few limitations on these uses.

For example, the customer can use any RF image purchased forever, anywhere in the world. However, the customer cannot legally give the image to someone else to use as they might do if they were purchasing a bicycle and then wanted to give, or sell, that bicycle to someone else. The second user must purchase another digital file from the original seller.

From a practical point of view if a large corporation with many different users in the corporation purchases an image that image may get passed around to a lot of different designers, for different projects within the corporation, and there is not much way for the seller to track such uses.

But, if an outside designer purchases an image for use in one company’s project and then decides that he wants to use the same image in a different project for a different company the designer would need to purchase the image a second time for the new company’s project.

The biggest restriction on the use of RF images is that for the Standard License price they cannot be used in any project with a Print Run greater than 500,000 copies. Some licensors put this limit at 250,000 copies. Usually the customer can purchase and Extended License that will allow them to print an unlimited number of copies.

Since the buyer is allowed to use the same image in multiple projects it is unclear whether if they print 400,000 copies of project 1, and 250,000 copies of project 2 they have exceeded the Standard License limitations. As far as I know, no one tries to monitor this.

With digital uses such as websites, e-books, apps, software, emails, etc. there are no limits on the number of views allowed with a Standard License.

When it comes to TV, online video or film uses there is usually a use limit based on the production budget of the project. For example, if the total production budget for a small project is less than $10,000 then the Standard License fee would cover the cost of the use of the image or clip. If the production budget is over $10,000, regardless of size, then the user would need to purchase an Extended License for a small additional fee.
The two big areas where there are limitation are in the use of RF images for web or print templates (where the creators licenses rights to multiple users), and in any type of merchandise for sale. Some RF licensors negotiate every one of these uses separately since they tend to be rare and can vary greatly in the scale of the use. Other licensors simply charge a flat fee for any use falling into one of these categories.

Finally, many of the larger companies include a certain level of Legal Indemnity in the event that there is some type of legal action as a result of the use of the image supplied. This tends to come into play when model releases are needed, or involved, but it could result from other types of legal action as well. Shutterstock provides up to $10K with their Standard License and $250K with their Extended License. Image may be licensed as RF without providing any type of Legal Indemnity.

Are New Photographer Contracts Required To Begin Licensing RM Images As RF?

Probably not! It depends on the exact language of the existing contract. Normally, an RM contract allows the agent to license use of the images for whatever the agent determines are the best terms for the particular use. Usually, no minimum fees are set or guaranteed to the image creator.

Also, seldom are the actual terms of a licensing deal disclosed by the agent to the image creator. The creator receives a royalty share of the gross fee paid by the customer and that’s about all the creator knows about who used the image or the terms. There may be restrictions on how the customer can use the image, but that’s seldom made clear. If a time period is given it is not clear whether the image can be used once or multiple times during the period.

We do know that Getty Images is licensing RM images in “Premium Access” deals for use periods of longer than a year and gross fees of under $10. Some of these PA uses are for Editorial and others for Commercial use. In today’s market some RF sellers are actually getting higher fees than are being paid for the use of many RM images.

If you’re considering switching from RM licensing to an RF strategy it is probably advisable to inform your image suppliers that you are moving to a simpler pricing system that offers customer more flexible usage terms at a limited set of price points. That doesn’t need to be referred to as RF and is sometimes referred to as Right Simplified. The terms of all these licensing models are flexible.

Copyright © 2017 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff