Commercial Licensing

Understanding Licensing Language

What is a License?

A license is a written agreement for the use of an image between the licensor, me, the photographer, and the licensee, you, the end user. The terms of that license (rights) can range from full unrestricted use to one with lots of restrictions. This is where it gets tricky and contracts come into play. Below are some of the most commonly used terms and their explanations.

Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Use

Exclusivity dictates to whom a photograph can be licensed to. Exclusive means usage rights are granted to a single license holder while non-exclusive allows the license to be given to multiple end users. Most commissioned work is exclusive while stock images are non-exclusive.

Restricted vs Perpetual Use

Perpetuity relates to the length of time a license is in effect. A license can be restricted to a certain length of time (a year for example) or give "in perpetuity", meaning there is no time limit. If a time limit is given and a photo needs to be used past the agreed upon time limit a new license must be sought out, usually at an additional fee.

Limited vs Unlimited Use

Usage dictates what or how a photo can be used on or in. It can be limited to a single item (a billboard or a catalog run for example) or given unlimited usage whereby the image can be used for whatever purpose the licensee feels the need for (from websites to advertising, as an example).

Regional vs Worldwide Use

This is a geographical usage clause that dictates in what geographical area an image can be used. Typical restrictions are local (i.e. the local distribution area of a newspaper), regional (i.e. a television broadcast area), national (i.e. a specified nation, either domestic or foreign) , global or worldwide (i.e. across the entire globe, such as an international website).

Transferable vs Non-Transferable Rights

This clause allows for the transfer or sharing of the license, kind of like subletting an apartment. Typically licenses are not transferable but certain situations may warrant it (i.e. franchises, distributors, licensing agencies).

When you receive your contract

Once an agreement has been reached regarding your project, the terms of your licensing agreement will be spelled out in the contract. You can refer to this page to get a better understanding of the licensing terms for your job.

If you need any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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