The Difference Between Copyrighted and Royalty-Free Images

Royalty-Free Images For Commercial Use

The Difference Between Copyrighted and Royalty-Free Images

With many thousands of new websites being created or updated each day there is a growing need for webmasters to obtain good quality royalty free images for commercial use. Images and photos are an absolute must to illustrate certain concepts, ideas or news articles, and their value is immeasurable..

Images, photos or illustrations add interest to a website, they provide a focal point. They visually create an impact that an article with no illustration does not, and can result in a website being much more popular than it might otherwise be. It has long been established that the use of images provides extra interest. Pictures break up blocks of text to make pages more visually appealing and this results in readers staying longer on a page, website or publication.

Once a webmaster or entrepreneur comes to the realisation that images are a necessary requirement, the next stage is finding images that fit the bill for any given project. Unfortunately, this is where many make their first mistake, the mistake being searching the internet for “copyright free images”, when in fact what is really required are “royalty free images.”

When a person takes a photograph they automatically own the copyright on that image and it cannot be legally used without obtaining the release of the copyright, which is usually a very expensive thing to do. Even if that image is openly published on a website or in a magazine the copyright still belongs to the person that created the image unless they release or sign over the copyright to some one else. It is not unknown for some people to “take” images that appear on other websites and use them for their own purposes. But without securing the copyright this is a very risky thing to do and should really not be done unless you can contact the owner of the image and come to some kind of arrangement.

Another way of using photos or images is by obtaining a license to use a photograph and paying a royalty every time it is used. This usually entails paying a fee or percentage on products or services sold by using the image. This can be quite expensive and contracts are usually involved which most smaller business really do not want to get involved with.

There is another option, and that is using royalty free photos. Royalty free photos are where a one off fee is paid and in return users are given a form of license to use the images for no additional recurring payment. There are different forms of royalty free agreements, many will allow only non commercial use and others will allow you to use an image only a specified number of times or on a limited number of products, so it is a good idea to check the details carefully. However, there are some royalty free photo websites that place no restrictions on royalty free images for commercial use. These sites allow more freedom to use their images and photos and should actively be sought out as this type of arrangement provides really good value for money.

Of course it is important to note, that even when using royalty free photos and images, the copyright of the image still retains with the creator; which means that you cannot resell that image. You can only create products or services using the image and sell those. The copyright in all cases remains strictly with the creator unless you negotiate otherwise.

In the event that you find a photograph, picture or image that you wish to have exclusive rights to, it is worth contacting the company or creator to enquire about this so that the image can be exclusively used by you. There will be extra fees involved, but it may be worth it as that image may best visually represent you and your company; it will also prevent others from using the same image and having your brand identity compromised.

Finally, it is important to restate that royalty free images for commercial use are not copyright free. The copyright is retained by the creator of the image. It is amazing to see how many searches are made every month for copyright free images, when in fact, what most really require are royalty free images; the problem is the people searching, just don't know what to look for!

Allison Galpin
Royalty free images for commercial use for webmasters and publishers.
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Trademark Registration: Protecting Your Logo Design

Question: Is a federal trademark registration the right way to protect a logo design?

Answer: It depends…

The answer to this question depends on how you intend to use the mark in commerce. For example, let's say you develop a logo or design that you and your friends really like and people are asking for a t-shirt that displays the logo. So you now plan on going into business selling t-shirts, sweat shirts, etc., with your logo prominently displayed. But before you do, you want to make sure and protect your logo design. Is trademark the best protection?

Remember, a trademark is an identifier. The mark identifies to the consuming public the producer of a particular product, or in the case of a service mark, the source of a particular service. With use in commerce, it becomes a recognizable logo design which identifies your product or services from those products or services of others. That's not what the logo design is doing in our t-shirt example. You are not a t-shirt, sweat shirt manufacturer. You are simply purchasing the clothing from another source in order to display your new design. The logo is simply being displayed on the t-shirt, it is artwork. According to trademark law, subject matter that is merely a decorative feature does not identify and distinguish the business owner's goods and, thus, does not function as a trademark. You are not using the logo design as a trademark, but as an identifier. I would therefore not advise pursuing trademark protection but instead, apply for copyright registration on the design.

If however, you have a product, and you intend to display the very same new logo on the product, and/or display the new logo design on the product's packaging as well as the advertising materials for the product, that's clearly using the logo as a trademark. With continued use in commerce, you are teaching the public that when they see the logo design on a product, or on packaging, or in advertising, that your business is the source of the product. In this case, trademark registration is the right way to protect the design.

Is your name, logo, design actually a trademark, or more ornamentation? The exact same design logo, however, in one example, copyright registration is the answer, and in the second example, trademark registration is the answer. It all depends on how you use the mark in commerce.

About the author:

Gary Price is an attorney registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. His legal practice includes all areas of Intellectual Property. Mr. Price also provides federal registration services under the business name Trademark Connect. If your business wants to register its brand, then go to and learn more about our registration services and our registration Guarantee.

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