Note: This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
Many authors use photos of people in their item previews – it’s a great way to liven up your preview and make it real to buyers.
There are some things to consider in using photos of people, because those people might have something to say about how and where you’ve used their image! In short, we think the best way to get images of people is from reputable stock photography “commercial use” collections. There are some other options, but this is the most straight forward one. Read on, and I’ll explain why.
Some other posts in this series are:
- Use of Assets in Previews on Envato Marketplaces
- Important: Envato Content Policy and Portfolio Review
- Watermarked Previews in Item Previews
- Gorgeous Creative Commons 3D Renders to Use in Item Previews
- How to Find Creative Commons Content to Use in Marketplace Items
What’s the issue with using photos of people in my items?
There are different rights people have to control the use of photos of themselves. Depending on where someone lives, or where a photo of them is used, these include rights of publicity, rights of privacy and consumer protection laws. Sometimes people have a right to have a say about any public use of a photo of them, and sometimes their right is only about commercial or advertising uses of their image.
These rights are separate to the intellecutal rights in the actual photo file itself. So, if Louise takes a photo of John, Louise would own the copyright in the photo itself. But John may have a say in how the image of him is then used.
These things vary from country to country, so there’s not one clear position globally about how and when one can use an image of another person. And that’s tricky in the global world that is online. So the best you can do when you’re putting your item into a global marketplace is to use ‘model released’ images. This generally means that identifiable people in the image have consented to their photo being used in any way – editorial or commercial.
As I’ve explained in my recent posts in this series, even if the image is free, or is available under a creative commons “commercial use” license, a person in the photo might not have given a model release. So be aware of that possibility, as it won’t necessarily help you to say “But it was on Flickr” or that it was on a free site!
Can I use photos of famous people in my items?
You may be wondering why a photo of a celebrity, sportsperson or other well-known person can be used in, say, a news website or blog, but not in your marketplace item. That’s because of the difference between ‘editorial’ and ‘commercial’ uses. That’s not a distinction that applies in all situations or all countries, but it’s a general or ‘bottom line’ approach that’s often taken when a photo of a person is going to be used worldwide. The approach is that an ‘editorial’ use of a person’s image (ie for news or comment) does not need their consent, whereas a ‘commercial’ or advertising use does.
Here at Envato, our policy is that to keep things simple, marketplace items and their previews or live demos are commercial. So that means, no photos of famous people, sportspeople, musicians, DJs or anyone else who earns their living from having a public presence.
But if it’s really necessary to illustrate how a template might be used, real world names of people or music bands can be used in text form only, and only in previews.
So what should I look for when finding images?
You should always check licenses and terms and conditions on the sites where you are looking for images. If you’re not sure whether images on a site are model released, ask that site. Unfortunately but we can’t advise authors on external sites so if you really need help you may want to ask a lawyer. And be aware that some sites have ‘editorial’ collections, which won’t be suitable for use in your commercial marketplace items or their previews.
Remember that if you want to include the photo in your downloaded item, you’ll need a license that allows commercial re-distribution. If the photo is for use in your item preview only, then you still need a commercial use license but not necessarily one that allows re-distribution. That’s explained more in our Knowledgebase article What Images, Videos, Code or Music can I use in my Items?
What if I took the photo, the photo is public domain, or the celebrity is not alive?
I’m not talking here about being a PhotoDune or VideoHive author, as stock photo and stock video footage have their own detailed model release requirements. If you take your own photos for use within other marketplace items, you need to get your own model releases from the people in them. Now, we’re not expecting or asking you to submit the releases to us, and you can use some discretion in how formal the model release is – this might vary depending on your relationship to the person being photographed. Sometimes an email might be sufficient, and other times a written signed release would be better.
If a photo is in the public domain, that means the copyright in the photo has expired, but that doesn’t necessarily affect the rights of the person in the photo. And similarly, even if a person in a photo is no longer alive, if they were famous it might be that their estate still controls the use of their image. So it’s best to avoid pictures of deceased celebrities in your commercial marketplace items.
Despite all these matters, there are plenty of sources out there of model released images that won’t break your budget, so don’t despair! As we’ve said a few times now, it’s of course your responsibility to make sure your photos are properly licensed and contain appropriate content. Take this opportunity to review your items – don’t wait for someone else to knock on your door about it.
If you have any questions or feedback, let me know in the comments!