Contributor’s Guide: Rights Managed & Royalty Free Licenses

If you’re submitting to a commercial library for the first time you may not be aware of the different types of licensing that can be applied to your imagery.

Here, we explain the key differences between RM and RF imagery, and the factors you’ll need to keep in mind when determining the correct license type for your work.

There are also some tips on how you can continue developing your work as an artist while we take care of the commercial side!

Rights-managed images are licensed for specific terms of use. The end user will be required to specify exactly how, where and for how long they intend to use the image. Each new use of an image must be licensed separately. 

The fees for Rights Managed images will be calculated according to the scope of the usage, with more extensive and prominent usages commanding higher fees. Libraries will ask their clients to specify their required media, formats, reproduction size, print run, territory, duration, and any other details that will determine the scope of the license.

Rights-managed imagery can also be offered with exclusive rights within the end user’s industry and territories. This means that images cannot be Rights-managed unless there is certainty over where and how it has been used.

As a photographer/illustrator you can therefore apply the Rights-managed license to the following images…

  • A new image which you will submit to one library only
  • An existing image that has (a) only ever been licensed on a Rights-managed basis AND (b) has a full license history attached outlining any existing usage. 

We cannot apply the Rights managed license to the following image types:

  • Any image (or its sister shots) which is currently available from any other library; 
  • Any image which has ever been available Royalty Free (even if not currently);
  • A commissioned work or image for which the original usage/license is still active;
  • Any images that have ever been sold via Microstock or subscription libraries;
  • Any images licensed by yourself;
  • Any images with Creative Commons license models; 

Royalty-free images are licensed for a fixed one-off fee covering all usages. Once purchased, the end user can use the image any number of times in any medium, for an indefinite period.

The fees for Royalty Free images are based on the size of the image file the user needs. 

NOTE: RF fees are usually lower than RM fees, but a very limited RM license can sometimes have a lower fee than an RF license. 

As a photographer/illustrator you can apply the Royalty Free license to the following images…

  • A new image which you will submit to one library only;
  • Existing images currently available from other libraries as Royalty Free;
  • An image which has ever been available Royalty Free (even if not currently).

We cannot apply the Royalty Free license to the following image types:

  • An image which is available from another library as RM;
  • An image previously licensed as RM and with existing active licenses (even if no longer available for licensing).

Licensing Composite Images
Many artists source multiple images in order to create a new composite work, but this is not always recommended if you wish to supply the composite for commercial licensing.

You must not use any images from other artists or libraries without their permission, even if the original source material is not clearly recognisable in the finished work.

You also must not use any licensed material to create a composite design – even if you licensed it Royalty Free or via microstock or a subscription – as this may be considered ‘sub-licensing’.

Please ensure that for any composite designs you submit, all the elements you use are included with the artist’s express permission, OR:

  • Are out of copyright or available within the public domain
  • Have a Creative Commons license applied that allows the modification and use the images for commercial purposes.   

Non-commercial projects and artistic development
When you submit to Arcangel – whether it’s an RM or RF image – we will take care of licensing your work for any and all commercial projects.

However, there are many non-commercial areas where you can still use your imagery to develop and further your artistic career! 

All of the following can be done even after you’ve submitted your work…

  • You can share your images on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, or in visual galleries as Flickr, Artstation, Dribbble, or Behance;
  • You can print your images in any format – such as mugs, prints, or pillows – and sell them individually yourself. (NOTE: this does not extend to supplying images to a retailer or a company making commercial products for re-sale.)
  • You can participate in exhibitions
  • You can promote yourself and your work using your imagery, online and in print. This includes published editorial pieces (e.g. magazine articles or blog posts) provided the article is related to you or your work, and the image appears solely for illustrative purposes. 
  • You can participate in awards and competitions. (NOTE: make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions of the event. Many organizations will require that they are given certain rights over any submissions, winners or not; this impacts your rights as the creator of the work, and might conflict with commercial usage if you’ve submitted them to a library.)