Royalties v. Royalty-Free
Royalties v. Royalty-Free
July 15, 2015

Only “free” means actually free. Forgetting this will cost you.

Every company website in this day and age comes with a blog. A hybrid word of “web” and “log,” where workers can share their wisdom, connect to consumers, and gain some credibility.

The task of maintaining the blog, usually assigned to the intern with a creative flare, includes adding stock photos of work teams and meditative sunsets to blocks of text.

But then the intern goes and uses an image or two from the dusty corners of the internet and an email pops up in your mailbox saying you owe a photographer in Michigan a few thousand dollars for using his work.

If you find yourself at the intersection of the law and creative protection, be educated on the significance of royalty, royalty-free, and copyright.


Royalties are paid as additional fees after an initial fee incurred when buying the data, product, or software. The royalty agreement might include a “per-use” or “per-port” cost, or an annual payment. Content and images with royalties controlled are known as “rights managed” content.

The revenue from these royalty fees can often be far more valuable than  the original purchase. Companies that have commercially licensed property may make millions from the royalties and will search to recover their lost profit from those who illegally use their property.

Freelance and mercenary “copyright trolls” find instances of illegally used photos or graphics. They make money by threating users of the image to pay up or face legal action. There is no way of knowing if their threats of litigation carry weight or not, either way you have been caught with your pants down and need to pay.


Some content and images are referred to as royalty-free, but are far from free.The authors might have waived their work from being “rights managed.” That means they cannot charge an annual fee or charge “per-use” of their creation.That still means for a 3rd party to use the image of a pink and orange Florida sunset in their blog about financial accounting they would still have to pay a one-time fee.

Once the royalty-free image is purchased, it can be reused by the 3rd party in as many ways and as many times as they want. This kind of property protection is common in stockphotos and blog content vendors.


Even if you don’t have to pay to use the image or content, you at least have to ask for permission. Any piece of work made in the U.S.A is copyright protected from the moment of its creation.Every thing found on in a Google search is protected and all their usage on personal and company website or any other materials.

If you have questions or concerns about royalties, copyrights, and any other legal issues surrounding intellectual property give us a call at 813-867-2640 or email us at

By Jake Van Loon

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