Book covers with stock images

A lot of book covers seem to make use of stock images. Here’s what I’d like to know:
Who buys the image? Is it the designer or the client?
If it’s the designer, can the licence be transferred to the client?
Who pays for it? Will the designer’s charges include the cost of the image? Or will the image have to be charged for separately in the billing?

The answer to all those questions is, it depends.
And I can only speak to how we handle it here in the US. Your location mileage may vary.

With books, you have to determine how the book is viewed/read. A lot of stock companies have licensing caveats for the number of impressions created, and different licensing for web-only viewing. If ever in doubt, contact the Sales department when purchasing and get a project-specific contract done up. It doesn’t cost you any extra to do that.

Beware of free-stock sites or sites that won’t draw up such a contract. While most images on free-stock are indeed taken by the folks who post them, there are a good number that probably are not.

Who buys the image depends on your contract with the client. If you are contracted to act as an agent for the client, then you would purchase the image as an agent for the client. If you have a generic contract then you need to decide to either buy the image yourself or have the client purchase it.

If you buy it, don’t hand over the actual image file to the client. You are responsible for what happens to it and the client could possibly re-use it inappropriately (in some fashion that would require relicensing.) In this case you would bill the client for the purchase. If you have the client buy it and turn it over for your use, you do not get to keep the image once done. The file should be deleted so you don’t inadvertently use it inappropriately for something else. The client does not get billed as they have already paid.
Images don’t have to be charged as a line item, unless you provide line items or if your country has a tax-forward on such things.

Not only do you bill for the image, you also bill for the time required for the image search and any back and forth with the client on selection of an appropriate image.

Thanks for the comprehensive reply, PD.
I think because a lot of the well-known stock companies are based in the US, it’s the US law that applies and thus becomes relevant to my location too.

If I buy the image, how do I ensure that the client sticks to the number of impressions specified by the licence? Perhaps I’ll have to choose an image that doesn’t have this limitation? Won’t that limit my options and also drive up the price of the image?

This is very good to know.

Even the so-called Royalty Free images have a cut off limit on impressions and usually 2 levels of licensing. the regular and the extended licenses.
As far as free images go…I’m not sure. We always try to chase down some kind of release on images, even if free or creative commons.

How do you keep your client from exceeding the limit? That is kinda tough these days when things can be printed on-demand.

It’s a pretty good argument for having the client self-purchase the image so that they are more aware (or not) of the licensing agreement.

Though I suspect even designers don’t ever read the EULA on images. If they did, they’d never purchase another stock image. That indemnity clause usually included by all stock houses is killer.

Take a look at this iStock licence agreement, which seems to be allowing unlimited usage with the extended licence. Am I missing something?

That hasn’t always been true. There used to be a limit on the extended license as well.
That’s why you need to read those things all the time.
You also have to figure out how to qualify e-book usage. I’ve never had to do that so I don’t know.

Not sure I understand this.

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