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License to Wha? Using Stock Photos & Fonts

We’ve become a very visual society. Maybe we have always been that way, but social media has made us more aware of just how visual our society is. (Hello, Instagram.) As such, every article, DIY project, and blog post has a pretty image. (If there is text overlaid on the image, it’s pretty text.) Luckily, there are several websites that offer stock photos and free fonts to help make things “pretty.” But can you really get away with using stock photos and free fonts with no strings attached?

Using Stock Photos & Free Fonts:

The Assumption

If a photo appears on a free stock photo website, anyone can use it for any purpose, right? That’s the assumption. The same assumption is common for a free font or piece of clip art. Using it for a Powerpoint presentation? On a t-shirt? The truth is this: the Terms of Use on the site where you found the stock photo or font dictate. Those Terms lay out what’s permissible, and the permitted use doesn’t always include a business-related (“commercial”) use.

Terms of Use & Commercial Use

Remember that Terms of Use serve as a contract between a website or app service provider and its users. Several reputable stock photo websites cite the Creative Commons Zero license.  A photo, design, or other piece of artwork designated under the Creative Commons Zero license can be used, modified, and copied for any purpose, even a commercial purpose. This means that one can use it in connection with a business or in connection with efforts to make money. (As opposed to printing it out or viewing it for personal enjoyment.) When using stock photos, you are doing so pursuant to a license. The website’s Terms of Use usually grants that license. If the license does not permit you to use the stock photo or font for commercial purposes, beware.

The Point: Beware of using stock photos or other free creative works like fonts and clipart for commercial purposes. Check those Terms of Use!

What’s next? Click here to download your [free] Essential Legal Checklist from Spear IP.

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