By in Writing

'Royalty-Free' Graphics: Are They 'Free to Use'?

Royalty-free graphics are offered on a good many web sites. They are intended for people who aren't themselves photographers, and who need high quality images for their work. A royalty-free image is a stock image that may be used by a number of different individuals or businesses. Because the images are ready to use, this is an attractive option for anyone who can't afford a large investment of time or money in order to complete a project.

Distinguishing Between 'Royalty-Free' and 'Free To Use'

Quite often, royalty-free images are available for download when the user pays a small or moderate fee. If an individual takes the image without paying and then uses it online, that's copyright infringement.

You may be wondering why that's so. Let me explain: Normally, if you use an image in a commercial project that paid you earnings, you're expected to give a percentage of your earnings to the person who owns the copyright for that image. That's what a royalty is! It's similar to the revenue share you get from your paid to write web sites. It's the artist's cut of the profits from your project.

Royalty-free just means that the artist isn't expecting you to pay a share of your profits. You do need to pay a fee to purchase the right to use the image, though. So it's not free , but it is royalty-free .

Free Alternatives to Royalty-Free Images

If you don't want to pay to download a licensed copy of a royalty-free image, you shouldn't use it at all. So stay away from sites like Shutterstock, iStockphoto, and Dreamstime.

You're better off using a free-to-use or public domain image instead. I like to recommend Pixabay to my fellow writers, and I use the site myself a lot. It offers quality images at no cost, and there are no other obligations as the images are released to the public domain.

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Image credit: Camera by Gerd Altmann/Pixabay ( CC0 1.0 )

Note: This content has been adapted from an original piece by the author, which has since been removed from EliteVisitors

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wolfgirl569 wrote on July 1, 2015, 11:39 PM

I mostly use my own. But do sometimes go to pixaby

CoralLevang wrote on July 2, 2015, 1:22 AM

Excellent advice and lesson, as always, Ruby3881 . New and old writers are lucky to have your expertise.

irenen1 wrote on July 2, 2015, 8:48 AM

Pixabay photographers accept donations and you can "buy" them a cup of coffee. If you have your own photos, you can publish them there.

Kasman wrote on July 2, 2015, 2:24 PM

Although Pixabay don't require attribution for any of their images you should still do so - it gives them some publicity and establishes the provenance of any image you use and remember that Persona Paper requires attribution for all images including those from Pixabay.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 2, 2015, 11:24 PM

Indeed! I always do add a proper image credit whether it's required or not.

BarbRad wrote on July 3, 2015, 4:13 AM

I'm very thankful we can use Pixabay for free for those subjects we can't photograph ourselves.

WordChazer wrote on July 3, 2015, 4:44 PM

I use Pixabay too. I also have a few images that I own the rights to, because the artist sold them to me when I purchased the photo or image from them. They usually also stipulated that I had to mention them in the credits (which I do even for free-to-use public domain images).

Ruby3881 wrote on July 5, 2015, 1:30 PM

I always credit the photographer or designer, even if the image is public domain and doesn't require a credit. I think it's only right.