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Royalty Free vs. Really Free

by Linda Jenkinson |

We've all downloaded software that has "Agree” and "Disagree” buttons, meaning that we have read and agree to the terms of use.Because clicking agree means you get to continue, you may be tempted to click without reading the lengthy legal terms just because you want the software. If you click the disagree, you lose the ability to install the software. Many Internet stock photo galleries use similar buttons.

At stock photo galleries, the temptation is also to click and continue, since many of the galleries advertise their photos as Royalty Free. However, although the photos are Royalty Free, if you look at upper-end galleries such as Getty Images, Corbis, or page through the National Geographic's image gallery, you'll find that you can pay hundreds of dollars for a Royalty Free stock photo. Although some galleries, like iStock and Fotolia off less expensive images per download, the terms of use may vary with each price point. Even at galleries that advertise free downloads of Royalty Free images, the terms of use often come with restrictions.

So, if you have to pay what is "Royalty Free?"

Most Royalty Free galleries provide a license to use their images, which is not the same as purchasing the image.

A royalty is payment to the holder of a patent or copyright or other intellectual property resource for using their property. Royalties are paid per each instance of use. For instance, each time your cable station runs a television rerun, chances are that the station must pay the producer for that presentation.

On the other hand, a Royalty Free license is usually a single payment that covers multiple presentations of the licensed property, but within terms of use the owner stipulates and to which the licensee agrees.

The bottom line: Royalty Free is not Really Free.

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