Stock photography – how can I use it?

With numerous websites out there, there is a wide range of quality images for website owners to purchase. But, before you use stock content, you need to make sure you are aware of the do’s and don’ts.

When crafting a stylish new website for your law firm, images are likely to be an integral part of the design. While high-quality legal content is also key, anyone visiting your website will be instantly attracted to the images on the page.

Having your own photographs taken can be expensive and may limit your options in terms of subject matter. Stock photography is an easy way for website owners to gain access to a wide range of high-quality images at a fraction of the cost of commissioning a private photoshoot. With numerous stock websites offering not only photographs but videos, animations, illustrations and audio, there is a seemingly unlimited amount to choose from, all just a click away.

When you purchase content from a stock website, you purchase a license to use that content. It is important to remember that the right to use the images is owned by either the stock website or the artist who supplied the content. There are therefore various copyright and licencing rules that apply to stock photography which should not be ignored. You should always review the terms and conditions yourself, but Alice Mackey has summarised some key do’s and don’ts.

What you should do with stock photography

  •  Use the content forever. There is no expiration date on your rights to use the purchased content. If you decide to base your branding around a particular image set, you do not need to worry about the content becoming unavailable to you in the future.
  • Use the content as often as you like. Content can be used in an unlimited number of projects and in any media. If you find the perfect image for your law firm’s website, you can use that across all of your marketing materials to create professional, consistent branding.
  • Check whether there are limitations on how content can be used. Some content is specified for ‘editorial use only’ and is only meant for use in connection with events that are newsworthy or of general interest. You cannot use these images for articles promoting your services.
  • Make sure you include a disclaimer if using the content for sensitive use. If content featuring models is used in connection with a sensitive subject, for example, divorce law or domestic violence, you must indicate that the content is being used for illustrative purposes and any person depicted is a model.
  • Ensure that you have purchased the correct license for products and electronic templates for resale. Some stock content providers allow users to purchase extended licenses to use content in connection with goods or services intended for resale. If you use a stock photography for a client guide to conveyancing that you intend to sell, make sure you have purchased the correct licence.
  • Permit your marketing subcontractors to use content in any production on behalf of your law firm. You can allow your graphic designer to use the licensed images when creating marketing materials for your law firm, but you must ensure that these images are not used by them for any of their other clients.

What you should not do with stock photography

  • Do not be surprised if the content you have purchased appears on another law firm’s website. Purchasing a license to use stock content does not give you exclusive rights to use that content.
  • Do not use the content in any defamatory or unlawful manner.
  • You should not use stock content in trade marks or logos. Stock content is owned by the supplying website or artist and cannot be used as if it is your own. You also run the risk of another business using the same image as you in their logo.
  • Do not falsely represent that you are the original creator of the licensed content. While you do not need to include a photo credit for every use of licensed content, if you have created a client guide that mainly consists of stock photography, remember to include an attribution.
  • You should not use content in a way that allows others to download, extract or redistribute content as a standalone file. If you are publishing your law firm’s newsletter online, you will need to make sure that others will be unable to extract the images for their own use.
  • Do not allow anyone other than the license holder to use the content. The rights granted to you when you purchase stock content are non-transferable and non-sublicensable. This means that you cannot transfer or sublicense them to anyone else. While you can purchase content on behalf of your employer, that content belongs to the law firm and can only be used by the law firm. Any member of staff who wants to use the images for articles on their personal LinkedIn page, for example, would have to purchase their own licence.


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