ALP: I licensed stock artwork to use in advertisements for my product. Are there any limitations to how the artwork can be used?

February 2007

While the answer to this question depends in large part on the license you have entered into with the Stock Artwork Company, there are several standard limitations and issues you should be aware of when making use of stock artwork in your advertisements.

First, most license agreements for stock artwork indicate that the Stock Artwork Company is not providing you with the right to use the person, place, or property depicted in the image, which may be subject to copyrights, trademarks, rights of publicity or other rights belonging to third parties.  For example, if you were to purchase a photograph of a baseball game, which also depicted the Cincinnati Reds and specifically Tom Browning, the license you have received from the Stock Artwork Company does not include the right to use the Cincinnati Reds logo or the image of Tom Browning in connection with your product.  These rights must be obtained separately.  Otherwise, you may be subjecting yourself to a trademark infringement claim and/or right of publicity claim due to falsely suggesting that there is an association or sponsorship between the Cincinnati Reds, Tom Browning and your company. 

Second, it is important to understand that the license you receive from the Stock Artwork Company is in fact merely a license and it does not provide you with ownership of the image at issue.  How you can actually use the image will be dictated by the terms of the license.  For example, if the license indicates that you have the right to use the image in print collateral material, you must ensure that the image is not later used in a web-based advertisement campaign or television commercial that may be based upon that original print collateral material.

Finally, it is important to note that because the underlying copyright is still owned by the Stock Artwork Company, the image may be licensed to a third party, who may then use it in connection with similar advertising endeavors.