The Busy Marketer's Guide to Image Rights Management
Let's face it: you're busy, but you still need stunning, authentic imagery for your channels that is completely worry-free. This guide explains everything you need to know about using content properly and avoiding legal headaches.
Grant Munro is Co-Founder & CEO of FlashStock.
A lifelong technologist, he has held positions at
Syncapse, Motorola, and Nokia. He holds a BS in
Computer Science from the University of British
Columbia, and an MBA from the University of Toronto.
Visual content dominates the web Page 3
Sourcing visual content Page 6
The temptation of repurposing visuals Page 8
Duane Reade social media case study Page 10
Best practices for managing images rights Page 13
Flashstock builds technology that helps to connect
organizations that need content to consumer
photographers who are interested in creating images
for them. More on Flashstock on page 15.
This report was developed by
Percolate in collaboration with:
dominates the web!
Our digital world is ﬁlled with visual content
– from selﬁes to baby videos to citizen journalism —
images and videos are everywhere.
More and more social platforms are prioritizing images over text
including Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, as well as the giants: Facebook
and Twitter. Today, over 1.8 billion images are shared each day via
ﬁve digital platforms: WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook,
Consumers often respond to visual imagery stronger and faster than
they do with mere words. Whether it’s to provoke feelings, thoughts,
or actions, the world of content marketing has adapted to this
realization by replacing text-based information with visually focused
content, shifting what we see across all mediums.
With this shift, marketers need more visual content than ever.
Creating, sourcing and curating original images has become a
crucial investment for brands. Having high quality images results in
high click throughs on posts, increases engagement, and strengthens
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014YTD
Mayr Meeker 2014 Internet Trends Presentation
Photos shared on WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram,
Facebook, Flickr each day total 1.8 Billion
As the volume of visual content required to stay relevant
is increasing, so is the cost and complexity to deliver it.
The ﬁrst instinct for many marketers is to turn to stock images. Services
like Getty and Shutterstock offer tens of millions of royalty-free images
in a number of categories, themes, and formats that can be used for
websites and social channels.1 Using stock is fast and convenient. But
over time, the over-reliance on and misuse of stock images can lead
to repetitive, less authentic visuals that feel fake and undifferentiated.
This is perhaps best illustrated by the popular Tumblr “Woman
Laughing Alone with Salad” which shows how sometimes stock can
be exceptionally bland and awkward.2
What’s a savvy marketer to do?
Ideally, brands would want to source new photography or illustrations
whenever possible for their visual content. But hiring artists and
photographers and setting up a shoot is time-consuming and
inconvenient. Sometimes agencies offer to procure images on the
brand’s behalf, but the costs quickly add up and the time between the
request and delivery of new images can take weeks or even months
— unacceptably long in a social era where images may be relevant
for only a few hours.
1. A Percolate license typically includes several dozen images per month from Getty and Shutterstock for the brand to use.
Most stock imagery
looks like this
Images featured on this page are not Flashstock property.
The temptation of
With increasing demand for relevant content and pressure
on marketing budgets, brands and agencies are looking for
new sources of images.
A customer snaps a photo of themselves with their favorite sports
drink and posts it to Instagram - does that make it fair game for the
ofﬁcial brand? The New York Times posts an article with a humorous
interaction between two celebrities. Can a brand put some meme
words on it and share it to Twitter for some cheap laughs?
Many brands and agencies have infringed copyright laws by
extracting and publishing images from platforms like Facebook,
Twitter or Instagram. These infringements have led to civil lawsuits,
forcing organizations to take a closer look at how they create, curate
and publish content.
Which images can we use to
promote our products? Can we
borrow or repurpose images once
they’ve been published in the
public domain? Can we retweet
them? Who owns these photos?
Identifying and knowing what content can and can’t be used can be
a complicated undertaking, especially for commercial use. Image
publishing has become an increasingly complex and resource-
intensive process for brands, agencies and media companies looking
to keep pace with the speed and scale of social media. The following
is an example of how a seemingly innocent post can go wrong.
Duane Reade social
media case study!
As the largest drugstore chain in New York City,
Duane Reade boasts a major digital presence.
The brand has over two million followers on Twitter and 101,000 likes
on Facebook. The company was even featured by Twitter in a case
study as a business that effectively used social media, promoted tweets
and implemented hashtag campaigns to generate a 67% increase in
followers year over year.
However, more recently Duane Reade’s social presence is best known
for its major media rights stumble with an image the brand posted to its
social channels. On March 18th, 2014 Duane Reade published a
photo of actress Katherine Heigl holding Duane Reade bags outside a
store on the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The tweet read:
Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t
resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.
The photo was taken from a celebrity news website and Katherine Heigl
asserted that she did not, directly or indirectly, grant the original
photographer or, subsequently, the brand, rights to use her likeness for
Immediately following the post, Heigl’s lawyers ﬁled a six million dollar
lawsuit against the drug store brand because they “misused and
misappropriated the photograph for [Duane Reade’s] own commercial
advertising” and because Duane Reade’s tweets “predominantly
promote commercial advertisements” and “only occasionally use large
photographs.” As a result the photo of Heigl implies “falsely that [the]
Plaintiff endorses [the] Defendant”.4
The suit has not yet resolved, but not matter what the decision, it’s a
clear warning for marketers to keep up the pace and relevancy of
their visual usage without skipping steps such as obtaining rights for
the images they distribute.
Historically, social media has received lower scrutiny than traditional
media such as a billboard ad or 30 second TV spot. But, with the
changing landscape of content marketing, the rules and laws related
to allowable image use of images are also changing, forcing
marketers to properly manage what they do. Marketers need to
understand these changes and to realize that every social post is a
public representation of the brand that may be deemed as
Free, licensed, pre-shot photography is a crucial part of traditional
media production, but traditional methods of obtaining stock photos
can be too generic for use in social media. Companies need a
partner that can provide authentic, on-brand professional
photography with built-in image rights clearance.
In other words, Duane Reade’s
social posts are akin to the brand
buying a billboard with Heigl’s
photo and pretending she
endorsed the drugstore.
Navigating visual content for your brand is critical —
here are ﬁve things leading companies do to stay in control.
3. Know what the image is being used for
The terms of services for how you can legitimately use images differ
between networks. Those terms generally differ depending on
whether the image is being used for editorial or commercial use. Be
clear on the difference, and where you fall so you understand the
terms applicable to you.
4. Establish a process to respond to
If you don’t currently have a process to respond to copyright claims,
you are increasing your exposure to risk. Establish a process that
allows you to track and archive all of your uses of images in order to
establish a safe harbor if any claims arise.
5. Take control by using a trusted partner
We live in a world where content is being created and shared so
quickly that it’s easy to overlook the legal ramiﬁcations of what we put
out. And yet, more than ever, content published by organizations is
reviewed with increased scrutiny. As the media landscape evolves, it’s
becomes increasingly important to ﬁnd trusted partners and great
technology to help source and manage visual content.
While it’s difﬁcult to know what to use and how to use it, there are a
few tried and tested strategies that can help ensure that usage rules
and copyright laws are being followed. Here is a checklist to ensure
you’re doing the right thing for your brand:
1. Know who owns the rights to an image
Every image that is shared on social should either be owned by the
brand or have a known and recorded rights holder. If it’s a stock
photo agency, what is the agency’s process it uses before passing the
content to you? Does the agency have agreements with
photographers? Can you review these agreements? If it is a consumer,
do you have a deﬁnitive statement on record that indicates that he/
she has given your brand the right to use the image indeﬁnitely and
for any purpose?
2. Know who or what is in the image
Most stock images don’t have any brands or logos in the photos. This
is for a good reason. If you’re dealing with images for commercial
purposes, model releases are required. You will also want to consider
any brands, logos, locations, or artwork being displayed as those
may also require a release.
As the Duane Reade example shows, the media
landscape can be diﬃcult to navigate, and it’s important
to be smart in approaching content marketing.
FlashStock was created with the belief that marketers are struggling
to get the images they need - images of real people enjoying their
products at a price and in quantities that make sense.
FlashStock builds technology that helps to connect organizations
that need content to consumer photographers who are interested
in creating images for them. Our ambition is to create the world’s
largest on-demand photo service, transforming the stock photography
industry and providing brands with a cost effective alternative
to conventional and expensive professionally-crafted image
For more information, visit FlashStock.com or contact us directly
All images in this document (excluding page six) are FlashStock
Percolate is the system of record for marketing. Our end-to-end
platform of web and mobile products helps marketing teams drive
effectiveness at every step of the marketing process. From brand
governance to planning, content sourcing and creation, to publishing,
moderation and analytics, Percolate is the answer for the modern
As a content ecosystem partner, Percolate clients have access to
Flashstock’s network of consumer photographers directly inside of the
platform, alongside other content providers like Getty, Shutterstock,
Visual.ly, Scripted, and others.
Additionally, Percolate offers two additional products that help
with image rights management: Photographer: our mobile app for
iOS and Android phones allows brands to snap photos at events,
tag the photo with meta data, save the signature of a model release,
and upload the photo to the brand media library in just a few taps.
Fanbranded: Percolate also offers a scalable solution to securing
rights to user-generated content shared on social networks. Through
a simple, non-interruptive workﬂow, brands can receive authenticated
rights to their images with only two clicks from the user.
Percolate is the system of record for marketing. Our technology
helps the world's largest and fastest-growing brands at every
step of the marketing process.
Want to learn more?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
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