Royalty-free images

Image databases and agencies.
What to consider!

On the Internet, various image databases offer photos for everyone to use freely. However, since copyrights must also be observed on the Internet, license agreements often have to be concluded for the use of the images against payment of a fee. At the same time, so-called license-free photos exist. What exactly is this, and where can royalty-free images be used?

Image databases and agencies offer so-called stock photographs. This means that the pictures are produced on the stock. In this way, everyone can purchase the photo in stock for their use. However, he always receives only the limited rights of use – regardless of whether the work is royalty-free or subject to a royalty.

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The two licensing models
Whether you opt for the license-free or the license-managed variant when purchasing photos from databases depends above all on the planned exploitation. In the case of images requiring a license, the limited right of use is acquired for a fixed fee. This means that there is a time, space, or content restriction for exploitation. If, for example, the consumer has concluded a license agreement for an image for more than one year, use is no longer permitted after the end of this year, and a new contract must be concluded. In most cases, these are standard licenses, which also categorically exclude the use of the images in social networks.

The extended license is distinguished from this model. The royalty-free pictures mean an almost unrestricted use after the acquisition of the respective rights. Also here it is necessary to conclude a license agreement. After a one-time usage fee, the pictures can be used unlimited in time, space, and content and thus license-free in the future. In this way, it is also possible to use the photos within social networks.

Costs for royalty-free images
It is a widespread misconception that royalty-free images are also royalty-free images. Instead, the term refers to the fact that after the first fee-based acquisition of a standard license, no subsequent fees are charged for the photo.

Due to copyright law, it is always necessary to obtain a license or permission from the author before distributing a work. Those who do not wish to pay a fee for this must look for “royalty-free” images, i.e., photographs for which a free license is offered.

Warning in case of copyright infringement
Who uses a photo without the previous acquisition of the rights of use as well as without permission of the author for own purposes, commits copyright infringement. The consequence is, first of all, a warning, whereby a judicial process is to be avoided. However, in the course of the notice, further claims can be made by the injured party, such as a claim for damages. If the author has lost income due to the infringement, the infringer must compensate him accordingly. This can be very expensive under certain circumstances.

Professional association of the right journalists registered the association.

The Berufsverband der Rechtsjournalisten e.V. created this guest article and published by DeSight Studio GmbH. The BvDR registered association is the union of right journalists and attorneys from Germany, who publish legal contributions to most diverse topics on the portals,,, and