Ask an Agent / Are My Images Being Used Out of Licence?

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column answering your questions about the business of photography– the photography industry’s first Agony Aunt!

If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to Questions can be on anything to do with the photography business, such as photoshoots, marketing, professional practice, pricing, contracts, legal stuff – anything!

This month we have an interesting question about a client using images out of the agreed usage licence!


“I did a shoot last year for a high street bank, with the final images being used in brochures and leaflets. The usage that the client actually asked for was printed literature, worldwide, 2 years. I’ve just noticed now though, that there are images of the brochures on the client’s website, with my images clearly on show. Do you think this is additional usage or included in the original usage? I have stated just this usage on the estimate and invoice and my terms do state that any additional usage needs to be negotiated.

- Chris Abbott

Thanks for your question Chris.

You’re right to question this and now you can see why it’s important to state clearly the usage on all correspondence and have business terms that cover you for things like this, so well done on that front!

Although the images are appearing online in the context of the printed publication, this is still considered as online usage. Online is a separate media to printed literature and therefore not covered by the existing usage licence.

Essentially the client are benefitting and potentially profiting from the use of your images in a different media than that in the original agreement. And it is good business practice to extend the licence for an additional fee.

To use a different example, let’s say you shot an image for a tin of cat food and granted the client a usage licence for packaging only. Then, the tin of cat food, with your image on it, featured in an ad on the telly. TV is a different media and not covered in the original usage licence. It is also a media that reaches a far wider audience than just packaging, just like online does compared to printed literature.

So going back to your situation, by using the images online, your client is in fact in breach of copyright. Having said that, it’s quite possible that they’re unaware they’ve done anything wrong so it’s best to be sensitive to this. Keep it light at this stage, firm but not accusatory or confrontational, so as to preserve the relationship with your client. Explain the infringement to them, by email or initially on the phone if you find that easier, and try to get some more information so you can quote a fair rate and get the ‘paperwork’ in order. How long have they been using the images online and how long do they want to continue to use them for are the key questions. Also if models were involved then be sure to pin down additional fees for this too and pass these on to your client.

Good luck!

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This advice should be taken as a guide only.

Lisa Pritchard, LPA and guest bloggers take no responsibility for any omissions or errors.

Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.