Book Cover Design, copywriting, Models, Photography, stock images

What’s right and not with images.

One of the things that keep coming up when I sit down with an author to discuss book cover design and marketing, is copyright. Not of their book but of the images being used for marketing as well as for the cover of their books. It blows me away how many people do not understand how the law works with images they are “just grabbing from Google”.

Let me say that as a professional Graphic Designer I loathe that statement.
The only way to use an image free of license is under a free license, such as the GFDL and/or an acceptable creative commons license. Or release into the public domain, which removes all copyright and licensing restrictions. (Wikipedia)

With that said, please, please, please know and understand how you can use a photograph that is not yours.

I’ve gone on the most
commonly used stock images site (and there are many out there) to see what they say about licensing their images.
What license do you need?

When you download a file on iStock, you’re buying a standard license that lets you use the file for any personal, business or commercial purposes that aren’t otherwise restricted by the license (check out the full content license agreement).


That means you can use our content in advertising, marketing, apps, websites, social media, TV and film, presentations, newspapers, magazines and books, and product packaging, among hundreds of other uses. Adding an extended license lets you use our content in even more ways.
Otherwise, you need what they call “an extended license.” When do you need an extended license? I’m glad you asked.
· 500,000+ Printed Copies – and remember as an author if you’re selling this many copies call yourself blessed and pay for that extended license. It’s worth it.
· Sharing files – this means if multiple people are going to have access to the file you need an extended license, which is why I don’t release PSD (Photoshop) files. I only have a license for myself to handle that file.
· Physical Products – Want to make mugs, bookmarks, postcards, t-shirts, posters with the image? Then you need an extended license. When I offer an author the option to do social media graphics, bookmarks etc. I have either purchased a product for resale license or I own the image/photos.
· Digital templates for resale – on website templates, e-greeting cards, etc. if you’re going to use it on any kind of template online, get a product for resale license.
This is the core of their T&C, and they have more legal information you’re welcome to check out on their site.

Shutterstock images

On this site you pay a subscription and you have access to “millions of inspiring images” their words not mine. Here are several levels of subscriptions:
Standard License
Monthly Subscriptions: Daily access to millions of inspiring images.
Images On Demand: Small image packs. Download your images anytime for up to one year.
Enhanced License
Images On Demand: Extended licensing for use on products for sale and for unlimited print runs and viewers.
Corporate Accounts:
Custom Accounts allow extended, multiple-user licensing and account access for your whole team.
As you can see they are a bit more flexible with their licensing but not much. They also say the following:
Shutterstock images may not be used together with pornographic, defamatory, or otherwise unlawful or immoral content. Using images may also not be used in a way that infringes upon any third party’s trademark or intellectual property.
Images With Recognizable People:
There are additional restrictions if the image depicts a person who is recognizable:
· tobacco promotions
· ads for adult entertainment or similar clubs and escort or dating services
· political ads
· ads for healthcare or pharmaceutical services or products
· defamatory, unlawful, offensive or immoral content–for example implying that a model is a criminal or suffers from a physical or mental infirmity.
However, you may use images that do not depict a recognizable person.
Still basic restriction protecting the photographers and models they are using.


This is Adobe way of competing with other stock images sites. They make it easy for Creative Cloud (CC) users. As a CC user myself I have to confess they have become one of my favorite sites to use.
*Let me insert disclaimer: I usually only use stock images on pre-made book covers as part of a composition. Occasionally I will use a stock image for a background or an effect with one of my own image/photographs. But this happens very seldom.
Here is what you get from Adobe Stock:
Adobe Stock license information
An Adobe Stock license allows you to use your asset anywhere in the world, and the license never expires. You may use the asset in print, presentations, websites, and even on social media sites. However, you may not distribute the digital asset by posting it online or in any other way that would let other people use the asset without licensing it themselves.
There are a few additional restrictions based on the type of license you purchase. Here’s what you need to know:
Standard licenses
With a Standard license, you may not:
Create more than 500,000 copies of the image in print, digital documents, software, or by broadcasting to more than 500,000 viewers.
Create products for resale where the main value of the product is the image itself. For example, you can’t use the asset to create a poster, t-shirt, or coffee mug that someone would buy specifically because of the image printed on it.
Enhanced licenses
Enhanced licenses provide all the rights granted in a Standard license, and remove the 500,000 copy restriction. Adobe Stock videos and premium images have enhanced licenses by default.
Extended licenses
Extended licenses provide all the rights granted in an Enhanced license, remove the 500,000 copy restriction and allow you to create products for resale.
They also say that this is for individuals only, so if you have a team or multiple people might be using the files you have to reach out and see what they can offer your team.
All this to say, know what you’re getting. You never know if you’re going to be the next JK Rollins or EL James (I have high hope for you). Let’s avoid legal issues later.