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Royalty free images for someone else's personal use
July 29, 2009 4:09 AM   Subscribe

How to correctly use royalty free images for personal items when I'm using them to design something for someone else, who pays me for my time.

So I'm designing my own Save the Date cards and have been using some royalty free images in them (which I will then print using Vista Print). Since they are for personal use my understanding is that I'm pretty much in the clear, whether they are free royalty-free images or something I bought from iStock. (Please correct me if I'm wrong though before I print these suckers.)

I'm wondering, what if I design cards for someone else and they pay me? I wouldn't sell them cards, just the time spent on the design and the file, which they then print from wherever they want. This would be only for personal use designs (such as the save the date card) and not for resale.

In this scenario:

1) Could I still keep using the free royalty free images, for free?
2) Are images bought from iStock still covered by the Standard license?

Or would my "client" have to pay me in cake to make it ok?

Perhaps these are all quite obviously laid out because to me it sounds like this is just what designers do, but I can't seem to get past the legal mumbo jumbo and I just want to know what the deal is.

I have tried looking online for a company that does this but they all make you buy the cards from them too, even Etsy. Do you know anyone who offers "design only" services for this type of thing? (ie limited run, non sale items, for individual customers and not like, say, a business.)
posted by like_neon to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In general, the use of royalty-free images cannot be transferred from one client to another. Thus, if you purchased a royalty-free image for your own use, you cannot, then, use that image on another client's job.

When I've purchased royalty-free images, it has been in the service of a client and their projects. Essentially, the image belongs to the client (whom I usually insist purchase the image directly.) That image cannot be used by another client (or myself) unless I re-purchase the image for that new purpose.

So...If you purchased an image for use in your own, personal work, you cannot turn-around and use that image on a client's job. This comes under the "non-transferable" part of the iStock contract.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:29 AM on July 29, 2009

Ok, thanks Thorzdad, that totally makes sense for images where they offer purchase of a paid license.

What about those under Creative Commons?
posted by like_neon at 5:48 AM on July 29, 2009

As I understand the CC license, images can be used and re-purposed for any use, so long as they are not used for commercial purposes. That is, as long as neither you or your client intend to offer the product (which contains the image) for sale or profit. Self-promotion may be prohibited, too. I'm not sure.

This would be separate from any reimbursement for your time and effort in creating the product. They can pay you for your time. You cannot charge them for the CC-licensed image. At least that's how I understand CC. I've not used CC for any projects. Hopefully more informed MeFites will chime-in on CC usage.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:57 AM on July 29, 2009

It depends on which Creative Commons license is being used -- some are non-commercial, some allow commercial uses.
posted by polexa at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2009

There are different CC licenses; some allow commercial usage, some (those labeled "non-commercial," containing "nc" in the abbreviation) do not. And just charging for the time you spent making the card, not the card itself, doesn't prevent it from being a commercial usage. Making a "Save the Date" card from a CC image counts as a "derivative work," as I understand it, so you want to avoid the "nd" ("no derivative works") formats, and if you use a "sa" ("share-alike") image, your Save the Date card has to be released under the same license.

All CC licenses require attribution of the original artist/photographer and either a copy of, link to, or URL of the license.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:17 AM on July 29, 2009

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