The Risks of Offering Your Photos for Free

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An increasing amount of photographers are giving their photos away, rather than selling them for smaller amounts (royalty free licenses). Websites such as ‘Unsplash’ is one of the websites offering users over 200,000 free high-resolution photos for use by anyone commercially, and without having to reference the photographer (creative commons zero license or CC0).

A good alternative for those users that do not feel the need to license the images they use, rather than pulling images from various sources without rights and permission.

Buried in the 5.000 word terms & conditions, which most likely none of the photographers read, the photographer does not need to upload a model release. But by uploading a photo, they agree that you have the proper releases, ownership and permissions needed to permit users to use the photo freely. And the terms and conditions provide no claims for unauthorised use of an image. Hence, the photographer is 100% liable for any legal implications that may follow from the content depicted in the image.

As any experienced stock photographer knows, getting your images approved for sale is a challenging task. The list of restrictions and legal requirements is long, and can for many photographers take years to fully comprehend. Required model releases of recognisable people is only the top of the iceberg of requirements.

Though the creative commons zero license does not pose an immediate threat to existing stock photographers, since most photos available have not been produced with buyer’s needs in mind; it is important that photographers understand the serious responsibility and risks offering their photos under such a license has. Especially if they are not up to date on the restrictions and requirements that go along with image licensing.

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