Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Few Cautionary Words about Royalty-free

Copyright © 2013 Kim McDougall
Originally published by 1st Turning Point
Just because artwork is free on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s free to use in your commercial project. As a producer of video previews for books, I often have authors send me images that they found through Google search, on Wikipedia or even images they shot themselves. I won’t use any of these without carefully considering the following: Who took the picture or created the art/music? Is the copyright holder willing to let the work be used for commercial purposes? Can the media be altered? Are there visible faces in the image that would require model releases? 
Oftentimes, these questions can’t easily be answered, which is why I rely on stock media sites for most of my images and music. These sites (see a list below) do all the hard work for you. They demand excellence in their artists and keep copyright and model releases on file. Images cost anywhere from $1 to $100 and music starts at about $25 per track. These royalty free sites may cost more than free sites such as Flickr or Photobucket, but they make up for it with time-saving search functions and the peace of mind that comes with royalty free media. Once you understand the terms laid out for each royalty free site, you can apply these terms to any media purchased. 
So what exactly is ROYALTY FREE?
Royalty free means the artist keeps his copyright but allows people to copy and distribute his work provided they give him credit — and only on the conditions he specifies. There may or may not be a fee to use the media. Some artists work on donation basis only. 
Know your license rights. Under the Creative Commons License (, the author may impose any of the following conditions:

  • Not for commercial use. This means you can use the image or music only for school projects, non-profit or editorial use, like a newspaper. Commercial usage includes all advertising you may do for your book (websites, trailers, newsletters, etc)
  • Not for reprint or resale. This condition means you can’t reprint the image such as for a t-shirt, and resell it. Book covers are a grey area. Many artists allow their work for book covers, even though these will be resold. Check the artist’s terms carefully for this one.
  • May not be altered. Some licenses do not allow changes to be made to the artwork. This could be as simple a change as cropping a picture or music track.
  • Must give attribution. Attribution means to give credit for the work. This may be a credit line at the end of the trailer or a link on your website. Some artists are very particular about how they wish to be attributed, so it’s best to check their websites.
  • And don’t forget the models. If you want to use images you took on your vacation, be sure that you have written permission from anyone in the photo. Architecture falls under copyright laws as well, so be wary of using well-known buildings in your images. Finally, look for any trademark logos, license plates or addresses that could identify a specific person or corporation. These can often be erased with a photo editing software.
What does all this mean in the real world? It means that you may have to spend a bit more money to get stock video footage, photos and music for your trailer or website, but in the long run you will save yourself the hassle of possible copyright infringements. As an author, I am sensitive to copyright issues (as all authors should be). I would not want someone taking an excerpt from my book to use freely, and so I wouldn’t expect artists, photographers and musicians to work for free either. 
Here’s a partial list of stock photo, video and music sites that sell royalty free media. This list is by no means complete. There are many more valid sites out there. A simple web search ‘royalty free’ will bring up dozens of them.

Kim McDougall is an author, fiber artist and photographer. Kim writes for children under her married name, Kim Chatel.
In 2007, Kim McDougall had her first book published and began the arduous journey of marketing her novel. This was the beginning of era of ebooks. Amazon was getting ready to launch the first Kindle. The world was becoming a multi-media social network jungle. Kim immersed herself in the publishing industry and discovered the newest marketing tool: book trailers. She created her first trailer for her young adult novel, The Stone Beach. Having been a photographer all her life, she had a flare for the creation of these visually stimulating videos that promoted books. Soon, other authors started asking her to produce trailers for their books and McDougall Previews was born. Since then, she has created over 400 unique videos to promote books of all genres. Under the business, Castelane, Inc., Kim has joined forces with her husband, Louis Chatel, former Sales and Marketing Director of Olympus Imaging America, to create an all-in-one shopping experience for both the authors looking to market a book and for readers looking for their next great read. 

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