How Can I Use Copyrighted Images For Commercial Use?

How can i use copyrighted images for commercial use

If you are using images for commercial purposes (that is, if you are obtaining compensation for the use of those images), you must obtain permission from the copyright holder. Alternatively, you can make a fair use analysis to determine whether your use is permissible.

You can find free images at sites like Pixabay and Pexels. You should also check to see if an image is in the public domain.


Image licensing allows a rights holder to grant a specific use of their work to someone else. This is often done for commercial or editorial use and can be very specific in terms of the use of the images. There are several types of image licensing and it is important to be aware of these as you source images for your business.

There are three primary classifications for licensing images: royalty free, rights-managed, and extended licenses. Royalty free images can be used in many ways, though some limitations may apply. Rights-managed images can only be used for the specific use purchased and cannot be shared with third parties. Lastly, extended licenses allow for unlimited reproductions of the images and can be purchased like a stock photo.

When sourcing images for your brand, make sure you read the license agreement and understand what you can and cannot do with the image. A common mistake is to assume that because an image is royalty free it means you can use it however you want, which is not true.

A common type of image licensing is Creative Commons, which allows for a simpler way to document permissions. This is a great tool for businesses who are trying to lower their copyright risk but still want the freedom of using images as they need them.

When choosing a licensing option for an image, it is also important to consider the medium in which it will be used. Each medium is treated differently and some require special permissions such as if the image is being used in a sensitive industry or appears to endorse certain subject matter.

Another consideration is if there are any recognizable people or places in the images and, if so, whether you have a signed release to use those images for commercial purposes. This can be a very complicated area of law and requires the services of a lawyer to make sure you are following best practices. It is highly recommended to obtain a release for all images that include recognizable people, as well as any that show private property or a ticketed entry location.


If you use a copyrighted image without permission or a license, it is called copyright infringement. This is a serious issue that can lead to legal action against you. The penalties for copyright infringement vary from country to country, but can include statutory damages of up to $150,000 per work.

To avoid this risk, it’s important to know the rules of copyright. Copyright law protects the original works of an author, including literary, written, dramatic, artistic, and musical works as well as images and other graphic designs. It’s also important to understand the difference between a copyright and a trademark. A copyright protects an original work, while a trademark is a symbol or word that distinguishes one product from another.

There are several ways to get permission to use copyrighted images for commercial purposes. The first is to check if the image has a Creative Commons license. This is a common licensing option for photographers, and it allows you to use the images as long as you follow certain conditions.

The next option is to ask the copyright holder directly for permission. This can be done by searching the photographer’s website or by contacting them through social media. You should always ask for a clear explanation of what you can and cannot do with the image. For example, you should never use the image for pornographic or adult-related content or for any other morally questionable uses.

You can also purchase images from stock photo sites that are licensed for commercial use. However, it’s important to understand that not all royalty-free images are safe for commercial use. Some may require a special permission from the copyright holder, while others are restricted to specific platforms or types of use.

If you’re using images of recognizable people, you should always get a signed release. This is especially important for commercial use, as it can help protect you from liability. It’s also a good idea to get a release for any images that show private property or restricted or ticketed access areas.


Image attribution is the acknowledgement of the copyright holder and is a fundamental part of all images that are protected by copyright. Attribution is typically done through a credit line or by linking back to the original source, such as a stock image website or photography agency. It is important to note that the use of a copyrighted image without attribution is considered copyright infringement and can be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

Some images have no copyright protection, such as works made by the federal government or in the public domain, or those that were created and published prior to 1978. Other images may have a copyright that has expired, been transferred to another owner, or waived by the creator. It is also possible for a copyright to be held by multiple people at the same time, and it’s common for copyright holders to establish licensing agreements through third-party websites or by contacting the image creator directly.

In some cases, it’s not necessary to give attribution if the image is being used for fair use purposes. Fair use is an exception to copyright infringement that permits certain limited uses of copyrighted material without permission, such as criticism or commentary, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, and research. In order to determine if an image qualifies for fair use, it’s important to read the terms of the license agreement carefully.

Most royalty free images are eligible for commercial use, but it’s always best to double check the license terms to be sure. It’s important to avoid using royalty free images for anything that could be considered defamatory, indecent, or offensive because these kinds of uses are not permitted by the copyright terms. In addition, it’s generally best to avoid modifying a royalty free image unless the terms of the license explicitly allow for it. For example, most image rights agreements prohibit cropping or applying filters to royalty free images. If the image includes recognizable people, it’s also usually a good idea to get a signed model release before using the image.


Aside from the legal considerations, there are a number of other restrictions associated with using copyrighted images for commercial purposes. These restrictions are largely driven by the terms of the image’s licensing agreement. The majority of business-related CC licenses include commercial rights, but it’s important to check the specifics of each to avoid any surprises down the road.

For example, if you choose to use an image under the CC Attribution-ShareAlike license, you can remix, tweak, and build upon the original creation so long as you credit the creator and license your new works under the same terms. However, if you are using an image to promote your business’s products or services, then you will likely need the broader rights of the commercial use CC license instead.

In addition, some images may require a model release if they feature recognizable people. This is particularly true if the people in the image are engaging in activity that could be perceived as promotional (such as models wearing your product). Additionally, some images may only be licensed for certain uses or periods of time. If you want to keep using an image after its initial usage period ends, then you will need to negotiate a new license with the copyright owner.

The internet has given us a funny, or not so funny, illusion that every image we see is up for grabs to caption or repurpose in our own projects. However, it’s important to remember that copyright laws apply even in the digital age, and that a violation of these laws can lead to legal consequences.

Copyrighted images can be powerful tools for your creative work. They can make your sales presentations pop, keep your blog posts more engaging and elevate your brand’s overall story. But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to get in trouble by violating the rights of a copyrighted work. Understanding the basics of copyright law can help you avoid making this mistake and keep your project on track. By following these guidelines, you can create a successful marketing campaign without violating anyone’s rights.

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