What’s what in the world of Rights Managed Stock

So … what’s the difference between Rights Managed and Royalty Free stock imagery? 


We’re hoping to de-mystify the confusion and a thank you to Jacob Pastrovich for the following …

Rights-Managed:  The buyer pays a licensing fee to allow use of the image. That licensing fee is based on usage. For example: location, type of media, length of time the photo will be used, etc. The buyer can also opt to pay for exclusive rights and there can be restrictions that apply based on all of the above factors. An exclusive license by virtue will cost a little more.

Royalty-Free:  A one-off fee is paid to the photographer by you the image-buyer, but the photographer is free to sell that image multiple times to different buyers as much as he or she wants.  Essentially, this is also known as “unrestricted” content. The price for the image is often dependent on the image size (high- or low-resolution). The buyer gets no exclusivity option to the image and the photographer might not know when, for what, and for how long the image is used for.

Worth noting:  Regardless of the above definitions if an image is to be used commercially (not editorially) it needs to be properly released.

Can Royalty Free images be licensed as Rights Managed images and vice versa? The quick answer is no. If a client purchases a rights-managed image, they have expectations on the exclusive rights (or non-exclusive depending on what’s negotiated) to an image. Let’s say they buy an image with exclusive rights for one year in Australia. The buyer will then have the expectation that they’re the only one with those rights for that time in that location. Buyers purchase rights-managed images with the expectation that the rights management and usually higher price means that image has been used a lot less. The ideal being it is less likely to conflict with another company’s usage, even without exclusivity.

Let’s say a photographer has that same—or very similar—image also listed on royalty-free stock sites or has sold it in the past, then that becomes a problem. It’s not going to work and neither party is going to be happy. 

In summary: If you have images in a royalty-free marketplace or on a royalty free stock site, then you can’t sell those images as rights-managed. 

* All Bear Stock images are Rights Managed