Licensing stock in clients name

Are there stock agencies that allow you to license photos in the clients name?

I had a meeting today with a potential client, and they are asking for this. They want me to find the photos on a project I would be designing and handle the transactions, purchasing them under my account, then have me turn over the files at the end of the project. They want to see invoices from the stock agencies, and they want to reimburse me for the actual amount I paid. And then they expect to be the license holder of the images so they can use them in the future with other designers.

I’ve never had a request like this before. Mostly I buy image packs from Shutterstock and Adobe, so I don’t think I even receive anything from them that looks like an invoice with specific amounts for specific images. I can’t find anything on either of these sites that would let me assign a license to them at the time of download. And, even if I don’t charge anything extra beyond cost, it looks like I am reselling the stock which would be a violation of the TOS.

I’m just a one person company, and am pretty sure these people are used to dealing with big marketing companies. Maybe I’m out of the loop on some business practices?

Has anyone else encountered this? Thoughts?

Last I knew, the license stays with party who purchased it.

I’m sure more will chime in as they get on tomorrow … but I would say it’s a big no-no.

When I’ve run into situations where the client wants to own the license for the images, I’ve set up a separate account in the client’s name, purchased it in their name for them, then gotten reimbursed for the purchase (along with a little mark-up for the extra effort involved). There have even been times when they’ve wanted to directly pay for it themselves, in which case I direct them to what they need to do to buy it themselves. In general, most stock agencies don’t allow you to transfer the license of the photo you’ve purchased, even though you can use it for client work.

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We do this a couple different ways.
First, you talk directly to a rep at the stock company. Sometimes they will allow you to put your client in as the final designee on the license, you are simply an extension of their sales service. Corbis used to do this, I don’t know if Getty still does.

The other way is to get a legal binding contract where the client designates you to purchase in their name, so you become an extension of their company. You fill the licensing application out with their information and because of your legal contract, you can sign the license for them. Short of that contract, you end up sending licensing paperwork to them for signature.

Sometimes though, especially with smaller non-stock resources, you end up doing the latter anyway. They won’t do it any other way.

We don’t so much mark up the imagery itself. But we do put a line item, half hour minimum, research/license application fee per image on top of the image royalty and cost itself. There are some caveats, for instance when a suitable image is found but the licensing proves to be problematic, we will work with the client to pursue a new image, unless it is images they have sourced for us to negotiate. Some clients provide a list of images they have found (sometimes from dubious sources) and it’s up to us to get the licensing sorted, usually for the client to purchase and sign direct.

When working with images that are Rights Managed, rather than Royalty Free, it takes a much longer time per image source to file all the licensing forms. Charge accordingly. It’s gotten so I can look at a list of pre-sourced images during a bid process and pretty much guess if their usually associated royalty allowance is going to work. Or not.

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https://www.shutterstock.com/license is where you should find the info about transferring licenses… I didn’t read it thru but you may have to buy an “enhanced” license to be able to pass it off especially if more than one person will be using it. If you have questions, call shutterstock directly.

I use istock and they are super helpful anytime I call with questions. Here is their agreement if you want to read through it. https://www.istockphoto.com/ca/legal/license-agreement See #4 & 5.
I also agree with adding in a “finders fee” of sorts to be sure you get paid for your time to source said images.

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< not a lawyer
If you are filling out paperwork in anyone’s name but yours, talk directly to a rep at the stock company, and to your client. You are signing a legal document and you need to be sure you are able to do the signing in the manner in which you intend. I have not seen a license that allows you to do that, especially not with royalty free stuff.
If you speak to a rep and they seem unsure, ask to speak to a supervisor.
As I said, some will set up a license with you as purchaser and your client as licensee, but be darn sure your client understands that, or has given you that legal signoff to act as their agent.
And YOU are unable to use the image for other work. End of story on that.

From your item 4

The rights granted to you are non-transferable and non-sublicensable (their bold)

meaning that you cannot transfer or sublicense them to anyone else.

From your item 5 and extended licenses

Unlimited users within an organization. Can save content on organization servers. (my italics)

That doesn’t apply to outside clients.

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I think it’s good your client is bringing this up. I once had a client (a lawyer, ironically) tell me he was approached by a stock photo company saying he didn’t hold the license to the photo. He didn’t. His previous designer did. But the lawyer spent a lot of time fighting after getting a demand letter for an exorbitant amount of money.

I think 123rf.com allows you to assign the license right when you purchase it.

I have some clients who have stock accounts and I advise them to use theirs.

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Maybe I should, but I’ve never been concerned with this and never had a problem. Then again, you’re in a situation that probably calls for a more structured approach than my after-hours freelance work, which tends to be a bit more informal sometimes.

I’ve never talked to an attorney, but I’m not quite sure what the issue would be in opening an account in some other entity’s name, paying for whatever is purchased, then getting reimbursed. This would obviously be a situation where the client had provided written approval, but I’ve never considered that the stock company would have an issue with it — they get paid, and as far as they’re concerned, whatever name is on the account owns the license, plus they have another customer. I’m careful about not letting them keep my credit card on file, though.

For what it’s worth, I’ve only done it this way a handful of times over the years when the clients didn’t want to be bothered with setting up and downloading the photos themselves but still wanted to own the license. If it were a regular occurrence, I’d likely do it differently

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Yeah, the clients are a bit different. A lot of government contract stuff and entertainment industry (though the ETD’s usually want to buy them themselves.)
A lot of times not only a license is required, but permission from the actual photog, and sometimes model and property releases as well. That’s why I rail quite often about images posted under aliases. Hard to find those people sometimes.

I’m sure you’re careful too about not providing the image downloads when handing off native files. I’ve seen you mention that. That real pitfall where the client takes an image and posts it online, and your name is on the license when Getty comes to call…not fun.

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thank you. That’s where I’ve seen this before. Corbis. I think they used Corbis too and are expecting the ability to designate a license to be an industry standard across all stock sites. It seems like this may have been a more common practice in a different era.

Yeah, I think I’m going to push them to do this. Maybe I would search for images and set up lightboxes, then let them handle transactions.

BTW, I love your podcast.

Yeah, this is starting to become a concern with me. I’ve been purchasing the licenses using my business account, then creating a print flyer for the client. The pdf of the flyer circulates within their organization and eventually a well meaning employee extracts the stock from the flyer or does a screen cap, then posts that to the internet in some form. I’ve been purchasing the licenses as a convenience, but I think I need to extricate myself from that part and just insist they make the transactions and supply the images.

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Thanks so much, Mojo! :slight_smile:

" There are two exceptions:

  • Employer or client. If you are purchasing on behalf of your employer or client, then your employer or client can use the content. In that case, you represent and warrant that you have full legal authority to bind your employer or client to the terms of this agreement. If you do not have that authority, then your employer or client may not use the content.

  • Subcontractors. You may allow subcontractors (for example, your printer or mailing house) or distributors to use content in any production or distribution process related to your final project or end use. These subcontractors and distributors may not use the content for any other purpose."

I referenced #5 for more detail about purchasing an extended license in case more than one person needs access to the content, but yes doing due diligence to clarify rights in this case should be done by calling directly.

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That employer client thing isn’t an exception. It’s a clarification.
If you have that legal authority, then great, but it usually requires a contract of some sort from the client stating you have that right (as I mentioned in my first post.) If you are doing the work for your employer, you may want to clarify your position on that with the owner of the company, just to be sure.

Subcontractors are a given. You aren’t licensing the image to subcontractors. But I’ve had instances where non-public image sources have requested a legally binding signature ensuring destruction of the digital image file upon completion of the print process. It can’t be saved in any fashion with the job it was originally licensed for. That includes all films or screens made by the printer and must be removed from all storage systems. A good number of museums and private photographers require that.

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Yes that’s a good option especially if they want to use them in the future. You could just go ahead and charge them for the extended rights use out of the gate.

My only concern would be that they find a different image they want to use instead, then you might be faced with the challenge of explaining why your choice is better :frowning:

I prefer to choose because it allows me more creative freedom so I’ve included a line in my terms…
“All stock photography/graphics are used under royalty-free license and as such, the Client has the rights to use the photography/graphics only within the scope of the originally purchased design. Extended rights photography/graphics are available at an additional cost.”

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Royalty Free stock is lowest tier quality stock (short of Free Stocks and CC stuff on Flickr etc…)
If you want to limit your clients and your design to that, that is fine.
Otherwise, you might want to explore other options.
To actually put that in a contract signifies you are a low budget designer?
Not sure that works for me.

And you really need to re-read those extended licenses. It usually specifies seats in your own corporate space, not outside, as well as taking caps off impressions and other very specific uses.

Using or not using stock content should have no bearing on the quality of designer one is.

But the quality of the stock itself might.

Have you ever been on a Free Stock site that has a Royalty stock site as an advertiser and the royalty stock site has an image bar above the Free Stock? Ever notice how much better the Royalty stuff is over the Free stock?

You are what you eat.

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I think there is some confusion as to what “Royalty-free” means. It’s is not “free” but refers to a copyright license where one is granted the right to use the photo/graphic based on a one-time payment (i.e. no further royalties).

Yeah, that’s a good clarification. Sometimes we toss these terms around like everyone understands them, which isn’t necessarily the case.

Royalty-free just means that once a user pays the licensing fee, that image can be used by the buyer of the license multiple times in various ways without having to pay additional royalties each time the image is used by that person.

Typically (not always) the best photos are not royalty-free. Instead, the licensing fee is determined by how it will be used in specific areas to reach a certain number of people during a specific timeframe. For example, if I bought the rights to use a photo for a magazine cover, that license might be for just that cover and rights to advertise that cover during a specific time frame and only in, for example, North America. There might be exclusivity built into the license too, like the photographer agreeing not to license it to anyone else for a specific period of time. Any additional uses would require negotiating additional fees.

Admittedly, though, there is a blurry middle ground between the two. Many royalty-free images come with limitations on how they can be used — for example, editorial use only but not in advertisements. Sometimes an add-on charge is required for additional usage rights not covered by the standard royalty-free agreement.

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I’m not at all confused.
I’ve been doing image acq for a very long time (from the days before digitized stock imagery used to come in a printed catalog with the comps on a CD, when you actually had to look at film negatives or color chromes.)
The professional terminology follows the evolution of the stock industry.
From High End too Low.

First comes Rights Managed imagery. These you pay a Royalty per specific use, either through filling out an online form or by contacting the owner/stock site directly. The license is very specific as to the number of impressions, the length of display, the size of the image on output, commercial or non-profit and any number of other modifiers to the price you will pay. These are usually also pro shots and various juried collections held by stock houses. It also includes sources not necessarily viewed as “stock” like a library, museum or direct contact with the Photographer. It also includes a lot of the Editorial Use Only imagery simply because if you want to use a recognizable piece of architecture or person’s image, that has to be negotiated.

Second is Royatly Free imagery, so-called because the one-time fee paid for this stock is not considered a “royalty” payment like the above. These are shot by semi-pro and amateur level photographers . On stock sites, they are usually vetted to some extent. You don’t see this payment option with non-stock sources. With Royalty Free, you pay for either a Standard or Extended License based on use, in either cash or by purchasing credits. The Extended License grants additional impressions or additional seats or whatever. Read both carefully and decide which is right. If what you want to do with the image isn’t covered under the EULA license, contact the stock site or owner directly. If this category includes editorial images, be very certain your use qualifies as editorial. Rights of Publicity will bite you in the butt. HARD.

Third is Free Stock imagery. These are strictly amateur photos and run the gamut from SLR to bad cellphone quality, though you will occasionally find altruistic pro shots in there. These are literally free for use, no fees or royalties, though often come with caveats. A lot of them are free for personal use, as in you can use them for your scrapbook, or print them on your home printer and put them on the wall. You may have to pay a fee for Commercial Use. If used in a design for a commercial or non-profit entity, that is a commercial use, even though you may be a hobbyist freelancer designer. Read the EULA carefully. Beware of Creative Commons licensing. There are varying levels of that, one of which says you can use it only if the subsequent work is also Creative Commons.

There is a level below Free Stock which doesn’t have a name, though I’d love to christen it PITA imagery. These are images found on websites, blogs, instagram, flickr, etc. where it is nearly impossible to contact the owner of the image to get a usage release. I particularly love the images that vanish after the webmaster has been contacted. Once had a whole site vanish.

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