Rights Managed (RM), is a licensing type for the use of stock images and photos. Typically, these images, photos and assets can be licensed through a stock agency. Rights managed stock photography licenses are usually set to a one time use by a purchaser, limiting the usage of the asset.

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The rights managed license is typically bound to a limited use by the end-purchaser by a stock image bank or agency like Shutterstock, Getty, or Adobe. The particular assets you, as a buyer, purchase through the rights managed license, allows for specific usage and limitation for a set fee. While this tends to be covered for photography or creative imagery, this can also be applied to images, photos, videos, music or essentially any other created element that is initially produced by someone and provided into the marketplace for use – but not transfer of ownership.

What Should I Know About Rights Managed Licenses?

Typically, rights managed digital assets specify a series of required limitations that set the agreed usage for a fee (or purchasing price; subscription). The purchase of digital goods under the RM license, a potential limitations can extend to:

  • The geography where the image may be used
  • The particular medium of use for the asset
  • Specific image size and resolution
  • The length of time asset may be used
  • Number of copies (in a physical campaign for example)
  • Reach or distribution utilizing the asset
  • Any specific form of distribution (may be more associated with physical campaigns)
  • Exclusivity or timeframe in which the asset may be in use
  • Industry, purpose, or audience distribution parameters for asset use
  • Commercial or non-commercial intent
  • Editorial consent or release to be considered for models, landmarks, brands, etc

Many of the specific considerations for rights managed stock photography or along the line for imagery or non-image assets listed above, make the process a bit wieldy. The good news however is, that many of the more stringent requests and parameters of use are more readily associated with traditional marketing and advertisement, and not digital marketing. It is best however to inquire and ensure you understand the fine points of licensing under this model before commiting to an agreement.

This particular license can produce the right intellectual protections and allow usage rights that work for the buyer, while being more customized to grant specific rights for an agreement, but can come at a higher cost due to the flexibility of the terms for the license, compared with that of a royalty free license (for example). The flexibility however, does not help when the terms of the license aren’t adhered to – often requiring another license or modification to licensing, sometimes requiring negotiation or mediation.

The Benefits of Rights Managed Stock Photography Licenses

RM licenses are a type of custom license which holds clear advantages, depending on the need. For one, you can request rights that aren’t normally offered in other license types and rights managed images or photos, are not as widely distributed as other licensing types normally. A recap of some of the benefits alloted to rights managed licenses:

  • They come with Exclusive rights – You hold exclusive rights through the duration of your license, protecting your images and advertisements from dilution, which may come from non-unique imagery potentially used by direct or indirect competition, same industry or not.
  • Traditional Marketing Methods with Print-Based distribution – You can allot a larger quantity of copies and distribution rights than other licensing models, which can provide better results for physical campaigns, television or film production, billboards and more.
  • Data based on Previous Use – It is possible that the stock agency you are potentially working with will also keep a detailed account of how the RM licensed photos have been utilized. This data might provide perspective, new ideas, or tried and true techniques that could be leveraged in your own projects and campaigns as well.

Where Do You Buy Rights Managed Photography or Assets?

Sites online like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Adobe and Getty all support rights managed licensing. These agencies are also sometimes spun off into smaller or separate business units and brands delivering on microstock and built around different licencing types like royalty-free.

These websites have millions of images in their image catalogs and will likely support the needs you may have as a buyer. Now, millions of images means you likely have a better shot of finding what you want to meet project specifications, advertising considerations, and topic of focus – however quality also matters, and it’s important to conducts searches to find examples of what you seek, to hone in on what you actually want.

One thing to consider when seeking out a rights managed stock photography license or set of them, is the exclusivity you will get, and the exclusivity of the collection. The more exclusive the image database – the more likely you won’t compete against others with the same or similar images.

To summarize, rights managed stock photography and their particular mode of licensing can be particularly constraining for digital use, however a big benefit to traditional marketing campaigns and methods – which could become cheaper to run as more and more become digital over time. Particularly when we have pandemics like Covid-19 to content with, and the reality that is faced in the inevitability of change.

If you seek exclusivity, closer relationship with stock agencies, and a high quality source to meet campaign standards and branding – rights managed licensing may be the way to go. It’s quite astonishing that 67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing the product – and this can translate to images used in your promotion or branding efforts akin to the effort of licencing images.

Credit: mdgadvertising

Feel free to explore royalty-free licensing as well, as these tend to be lower cost over rights managed – but be far less exclusive and contain little-to-none of the parameters RM licenses may have.

Here are a sampling of Rights Managed Photos:

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