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Commercial Image Licenses Explained

by | Feb 12, 2021 | 0 comments

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It’s time to return to one of my favourite series! “What the fuck is ___________?”


Today, we address the following: What the fuck is a commercial USE license?

Commercial license: A commercial license allows a business entity to use materials for which they are not the intellectual property owner, for the promotion of their business in order to make a profit. Some commercial license agreements allow for modification of the licensed materials, and others don’t.

As online business owners, we use online resources.

But… just because something is online, doesn’t make it fair game to use for your own business promotion, in your content, or on your website.

Intellectual property is property, and copyrights matter.

In particular this comes to imagery, graphics, fonts, and other materials created by professionals and shared online in their own portfolios.


Choosing what to Use

If you’re using a piece of material for your business, you need to either have the intellectual property rights/copyrights for that item, it needs to be C0 licensed for commercial use and modification without attribution, OR, you need to hold a commercial license for its use as something that will be aiding you in making a profit.

Otherwise… you’re stealing, whether you mean to or not.


And stealing isn’t cool.

So how can we avoid accidentally taking other people’s intellectual property?

It’s actually SUPER easy, so don’t freak out.

  1. If you’re currently using graphics screen grabbed from Pinterest or other places on the web, stop as soon as possible. I see this far more often than I’d like to admit – professionals will find an aesthetic they like through a Pinterest search, and will integrate a screenshot of whatever it was, into their presence. But someone drew that sketch, or took that image – and they own it. Using it to attempt to make a profit, is stealing.
  2. If you’re a creative or photographer, do NOT share the work of other professionals as “inspiration” in an effort to get bookings/orders for your own services. You are a business owner – if you’re inspired by someone else’s work, it’s your responsibility to capture/create your own take on whatever themes or techniques were used, and THEN promote it to your audience. Using other professionals’ work for profit on your own presence is stealing. Yes, even if you link to their profile. Even if you list their name. Even if they shared it on Facebook®.
  3. If you need to use stock imagery, either purchase branded images custom for your presence from a professional, purchase packaged stock images that match the aesthetic of your brand, or, make sure that the images you’re using are C0 licensed for your use! The best way to make sure of this, is to use sites that offer stock images licensed for modification and commercial use. I have a nifty little list of C0 Stock Image Sites here, that can help you find what you need!
  4. Make sure that you’re completely transparent with professionals you work with. If you plan to use images, graphics, or other materials purchased from a professional to promote your business – be VERY clear that those are the intended purpose of the materials you’ve purchased. For example – if you have a family photo shoot with a photographer, but you want to two-birds-one-stone those images, and use them on the website for your personal training consultation business…. that’s also stealing, if you don’t have a commercial use license from the photographer. The same goes for graphics from an artist, including images of their physical artwork. Transparency is absolutely key, and it is NOT unfair for a professional to ask for additional payment in association with purchasing a commercial use license – because their work will be used by your business, with the end goal of making a profit.


Post TL;DR

The tl;dr version of this, is don’t use things that aren’t yours. If you’re currently doing this without meaning to, make some changes! Check out C0 licensed imagery to accomplish the same themes you’re currently arriving at with your screen grabbed images from around the web. Or, take the leap and hire a pro to capture images or create graphics FOR you.

And THAT’S what the fuck a commercial license is. So… if you didn’t know, now you know!

Hey hey, I’m Gabrielle! But you can call me Brie.

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