Creative Speak: Royalty Free

Categories: Creative Speak

ROYALTY FREE!  Don’t worry.  We would never dis the Queen, and our above graphic is just a play on words.  But if you want to do some kind of creative work in the online world, you need to understand what this term means and why it’s important.

The kind of royalty we are actually talking about is money--money paid to artists for the rights to use or distribute their creations.  When something is royalty free, it means that continued payments to the originating artist are unnecessary once you have fulfilled the requirements to get a license for the work.  The artist releases that work to you to be used as you see fit (as long as you stay within the bounds of the licensing agreement).

Unless you have lots of money, loads of time, and a spare lawyer or two to go work out rights agreements with artists yourself, you’ll want to look for royalty free images, graphics, music, video, etc. for whatever creative project you’re ready to start.  In this way, you are giving the originating artist their due for their creative work, keeping yourself on the right side of all copyright laws, and releasing yourself from any further financial obligations to an originating artist.

Pricing and purchasing models for royalty free licenses can vary dramatically.  

  • There are sites that offer royalty free items at no cost and with no strings attached, like the images at Pexels and Pixabay.
  • Other sites give you access to royalty free items at no cost but with the string of attributing the artist, like Audionautix.
  • There are sites where you can pay a relatively small fee to be able to use a royalty free item.  For example, Canva allows its members to remove watermarks from images for only $1 for a 24-hour period.  
  • For larger artistic works, like a set of music or video materials, you can expect to pay more.  For instance, the site Filmpac offers collections of video material about a specific theme for $99.  
  • There are also sites that offer a subscription model, like Vectorstock, where you can subscribe to receive a set number of vectors a month for an even lower price than is offered through their credit system.  
  • And some sites offer a subscription to the entire site’s materials, like Digital Juice. For a yearly fee or a higher one  time purchase price, you can access all of their varied royalty free elements in your plan category.

Another topic we should mention in the world of royalty free materials is license types.  You will often see a choice about what type of license you want to buy for something: standard or expanded.  For most people doing most types of projects, a standard license will be all you need.  Basically, when you buy a standard license, you are saying that you are going to be doing “standard” things with the item you have purchased, like using it on a website, in a video, in your marketing materials, etc. You’re not going to do things like redistribute the item in its original, editable format; have a giant print run of the item (like 250,000+); put the item on a billboard; etc.  For those kinds of specialized uses, expanded licenses with expanded permissions on how you can use the item are available at a higher cost.

So there you go!  You are now in the “royalty free” know.  Get your royalty free items, and go forth to create!