Hello SErs. Harmony here 🙂 Today, I’d like to take a look at designing a book cover for your latest master piece while ensuring you don’t break one of the many copyright rules.
Whether you make the cover yourself or hire a designer, a good chance exists that you’ll use a stock image for it.
Even if you paid the image designer or photo site, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re safe.
Many authors and designers don’t understand all of the nuances.
Below, I list the different types of license for stock photos:
Standard License – For example, a Shutterstock Standard License allows you to use images an unlimited number of times in digital applications, which includes eBooks, websites, online ads, software, mobile applications, and online ads.
What about printed designs, such as hardcover or softcover print books?
This is why the fine print for any stock photo you use for your book cover is imperative. For Shutterstock, a standard license allows your use for up to 500,000 times in print runs.
Extended License – If there are restrictions on an image, you have to pay for an extended or enhanced license. This usually means additional fees for digital usage, print usage, or both in order to use it. An Enhanced License offers more freedom in terms of image usage. An EL doesn’t have limits on print runs or out-of-home advertising.
Editorial Use Only – Some images are labeled with “Editorial Use Only.” You aren’t allowed to use “editorial use only images” as they often contain newsworthy events, celebrities, or recognisable locations.
Right to “Alter” – Some stock photos come with a use license but without permission to alter. You will want to check that your license includes the right to “alter.” That’s critical because at a minimum you will be adding text to your book cover, and that is considered an alteration.
I, for one, would hate to receive a ‘cease and desist’ notice for any of those infringements.
So, in the end, depending on what stock photo site you use or your designer uses, make sure you that understand what type of license you have and any restriction it may have as well.
And Now: A WARNING …
You can’t fully trust stock photo sites.
Sorry about that.
Also, no matter where your images come from, you are the SOLE person legally responsible for your usage of them.
Why did I just say all of that? …
Well, not all stock photo sites examine every image to make sure it doesn’t contain something that is copyrighted outside of the image’s owner/designer’s copyright or usage licence. … Bit of a mouthful, that.
What do I mean when I talk about something else within the stock image? Let me give you an example …
While this image may be fine [I don’t know the authors or publishers or designers for this volume], you could get into trouble because of the tattoo the model wears. … I know, right? And then there’s the font … do you have a license to use your font commercially? Can you alter it? Do you have a sales limit on it?
All good things to be aware of.
The below book cover, provided all your licenses are adequate, is safer, as none of the models wears tattoos, etc [again, I don’t know the author, publisher, or designer for this book cover].
Another area that could get you into trouble is logos. Think designer clothing labels shown in your image … they might not like their brand being shown in, say, a crime novel where the main antagonist is a sexual predator. Think Disney (and a whole gamut of others) … avoid any images that contain any of these at all costs. It’s just not worth it.
Happily, there is some protection out there …
Below, I list some sites that do examine every image before approving it on their site. (None of these are affiliates, and I receive no gain [financial or otherwise] for mentioning them here.)
- Adobe Stock
- … And others …
The reason these sites are safer is because they are large companies who employ moderators to check each and every image before it goes live.
Sites that sell stock photos are far stricter with their content than sites that just list free images, such as Pixabay or Pexels. Which is a shame, because I adore Pixabay.
Free stock photo sites aren’t making money from their images, so if they are caught with an image that infringes on copyright, they need to remove the photo, but they (hopefully) won’t face a financial penalty.
They aren’t using the image for commercial use. But you are.
The biggest issue with these sites is when people use photos with people, aka “figurative” stocks. The subject of a photo might not care about a picture of them being on a free stock photo site, but they might not appreciate appearing on the cover of your edgy BDSM novel.
It’s important that you always get your figurative images from a reputable site. Check the site’s policy on checking all their images for legality before using an image.
Okay, sorry for the uber-long article. I hope you’ve found it useful. What stock image sites do you use? What steps do they take to guarantee their images? Do you know of other safe sites that I haven’t mentioned? Have any of you ever gotten into trouble from your book cover(s)?
Once, via a public Tweet on Twitter, someone tried to call me out by saying they knew for a fact that the owner of an image on one of my books (Finding Katie) had it copyrighted. Happily, I had contacted the designer on Deviant Art, who also happened to be the model, and obtained her permission to use the image mentioned. I Tweeted that person back and confirmed I had permissions, but it could have gotten nasty real quick.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below …
© 2019, Harmony Kent – All Rights Reserved