When you see images that you want to use on a website, publication or other item, you cannot legally take those images and begin using them. To do so would be copyright infringement, which would open you up to a lawsuit. Instead, you must license the images you are interested in using. Licensing copyrighted images is the only way you can legally use the images. Once licensed, you can only use the images for the purpose you negotiated because specific licensing rights are attached. For example, licensing for website use but using on T-shirts is illegal.
Identify the owner of all the images that you want to use. This can be done by looking for a copyright notice on the photo. If no notice is on the photo but you are viewing the image on a website or publication, contact the owner of the site or publication to get the name of the copyright holder. If you are looking at a stock photo site, it is possible that the stock agency is the copyright holder. You can also try contacting the US Copyright Office to see if they have ownership information.
Read More: What Are the Copyright Laws for Images?
Determine which rights you need. Ask yourself if you want the right to reproduce the images, distribute the images or modify the images. Knowing the rights you need can save you money. You also must decide you want exclusive or non-exclusive rights. Exclusive rights are more costly due to the fact that the copyright holder cannot license the image to anyone else.
Calculate how long you want to license the images because you must agree to a set term. For example, if you agree to a one-year term to license an image for a website, you cannot continue to use the image once the one year period is up. You can even ask for “in perpetuity” if you do not want a time limit on the license.
Contact the copyright holder and ask to license the images. Give the rights you need and term you desire. You may be able to negotiate the licensing fee if you are not happy with the quote given by the copyright holder. In fact, you may not have to pay anything to license the images if the copyright holder does not request payment.
Ask for a licensing agreement in writing, once you agree on terms. The agreement should state what is being licensed, which rights are being licensed, the length of the license and the fee. Once you have this, you can begin using the images.