Stock photography refers to the practice of licensed photographic work that is able to be used by other parties for specific uses. Many website owners, affiliate marketers, print publishers, advertising agencies, artists, and creative marketing groups frequently use stock photos as aesthetically-pleasing additions to their work. Using Stock Photos for projects can save a lot of time and money for these entities, but in return they are not fully warranted the rights to the photograph that they use, if they retain any rights at all. The end result is that it is possible to see the same stock photograph used in an ad for web hosting as in an advertisement for a mortgage brokerage firm.
Stock photography is typically sold to agencies by the photographer in exchange for potential royalties that will be collected. Another model is for the photographer to collect a percentage of royalties collected from the use of their work and the other percentage being held by the agency for exposure and distribution of the work.
There are several ways that stock photography can be legally utilized and distributed. The first of which is called “royalty-free.” Many people mistakenly believe that royalty-free means that the image is free for the taking but this is not true. There is a one-time fee that applies in order for another entity to be able to use the image but there are no usage fees that apply after that, unless the agreement comes with such a stipulation. No one person has the exclusive rights to a royalty-free photograph, meaning that the originator – being the photographer or the agency – is allowed to resell the image as much as they want.
Rights-managed stock photography is set up so that the end user pays each time the image that was bought is used. During that period of time, the buyer has an exclusive right to that image so that no one else can use it. The time increment for use is typically one year. Anyone that wants exclusive rights to an image must use rights-managed stock photography. The price is exponentially more for the use of the image, but the end user has greater control. After the contract expires, the artist has the right to resell the authorization to use his or her image once again.
The World Wide Web has enabled rampant theft and unauthorized use of photographic images and there is no fail-safe way to stop thieves as long as the image is displayed. With emerging technology, however, artists are better able to handle tech-savvy thieves and protect their work.