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I am baffled by "Editorial Use Only" licenses offered by stock photo sites. It seems that even if photographer wants to sell his photo under "Standard" license, stock photo company can force it into "Editorial Use Only" license. For example, iStockPhoto says following in their information for photographers:

The Editorial Use Only license means that the image can only be used this way, and cannot be used for commercial advertising purposes.

From that, it seems that photographer do not have any say as to what license will be given to designer who use that stock photo website to buy license. I am not sure why that is the case in many situations. I understand that famous person who did not agree for her image to be used for commercial purpose might object such use. I also understand that company that owns a brand can object to use photograph of their product for commercial purposes third party.

However, there are often images of public places, bridges and buildings that are licensed under "Editorial Use Only".

  1. Who can have objections to the commercial use of such public like places, bridges or buildings? In other words, who can sue desginer for the use of such "Editorial Use Only" photograph if photographer does not have any objections?
  2. Is there such thing as "Editorial Use Only" for images in Public Domain? For example, if I find image of Big Ben, London Bridge, White House or Statue of Liberty that is in Public Domain, can I use it for commercial work? Or is it "Editorial Use Only" kind of image even though it is in Public Domain? If so, who could sue desginer for using such Public Domain image?

I want to emphasize that I have no intention of infigining on anyone's copyright. I am asking those questions to better understand who, if anyone, owns copyright to "Editorial Use Only" images.

  • I'm not sure it's the public locations themselves, but rather weather there are people in the photo that causes the license to be 'editorial use only'. My understanding is that the 'editorial use' tag means people (or brands) in the photo have not signed a release to use their likeness. – Rsiel Apr 3 '15 at 15:04
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    Relevant Wikipedia link: Freedom of panorama. Wikimedia Commons has a page describing way more than you ever wanted to know about the extent and limitations of such rights in different parts of the world. – Ilmari Karonen Apr 4 '15 at 12:22
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Photographers selling photos through a stock agency have their own agreement with the agency. The agency then has an agreement with the customer.

Who can have objections to the commercial use of such public like places, bridges or buildings?

Plenty of people. But note that in most cases, it's not the public place that is copyrighted, but the particular photo of said public space. In other words, Central Park isn't copyrighted. But any particular photo of it, is by default.

In other words, who can sue desginer for the use of such "Editorial Use Only" photograph if photographer does not have any objections?

The owner of the copyright and/or the license. If the photographer is OK with it, and gives you a license to do so, all is good.

Is there such thing as "Editorial Use Only" for images in Public Domain?

At least in the US, public domain has a very specific definition and that is that it's free for use without any restrictions at all. If there are restrictions, then it's not technically public domain.

For example, if I find image of Big Ben, London Bridge, White House or Statue of Liberty that is in Public Domain, can I use it for commercial work?

Yes.

If so, who could sue desginer for using such Public Domain image?

Remember that in the US, anyone can sue anyone for any reason.

  • "If the photographer is OK with it, and gives you a license to do so, all is good." That is what I always thought. However, based on information from stock photo companies (including link from iStockPhoto above) it seems that photographer might not have any choice of license used if image shows public place. Hence my doubts. – Curious Apr 9 '15 at 7:07

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