Everyone loves free stuff. Put the word “free” in front of just about any other word – candy, movie tickets, trip to Hawaii - and suddenly, our interest is piqued. We’re human and we like free stuff. But what about royalty-free images, and why do they cost money? What does it all mean?

Fear not, dear downloaders. We're here to help solve the mystery. Let’s tackle some common questions regarding royalty-free.


Downloading an image from a stock photo agency, like Bigstock, is just like “buying” the image, right?

Actually … no. You’re buying the license to use the image. You do not own the image.  Bigstock does not own the image. Most often, the photographer or artist who created the image still owns the image.


Why do I need a license?

Every image, from the time it is created, becomes automatically protected under copyright laws. Copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of photos covered by copyright law. 

Most royalty-free licenses allow images to be legally used multiple times by the same customer (you, for instance) without additional fees.



What does royalty-free actually mean?

Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees each time you use it.




What’s the difference between royalty-free (RF) and rights-managed (RM)?

Royalty-free (RF) licenses have very few restrictions. Most images with an RF license can be used multiple times by the same customer without additional fees. RF images are not given on an exclusive basis and are typically less expensive than Rights Managed. RF licenses are a popular option because they are easier for customers to maintain.

Rights Managed (RM) licenses grant permission to use an image for a one-time specified use. However, if the customer needs the same image again, he/she must pay an additional fee. Sometimes RM images are licensed on an exclusive basis to prevent others from using the same image.

We hope this helps answer the questions surrounding the concept of royalty-free in regards to stock images. Please keep in mind that copyright laws can vary from country to country. Be sure to know the laws and limitations of your location and the licensing agreements of the stock photo agency you're working with. 

If you have any questions regarding Bigstock royalty-free licenses, please contact our Support Team. Happy downloading! 

AuthorBrian Masefield