Let’s talk about perpetual licencing! Now, if you have traded your photography services for money, you’ve likely had a conversation with clients or colleagues about licencing your photos. As a photographer, we take photos for clients, but we as the artist own the copyright of those images. Generally, clients will then ‘license’ images from us in order to be able to use them, (unless it’s used privately).
On occasion, you may be asked to provide a perpetual licence. In this post, I want to explore what a perpetual licence is and how to talk to your client about it.
Here’s a quick overview and Table of Contents for this article:
- What is a perpetual licence
- Find out what a client really needs
- Initial communiation example via email
- Examples of how to talk to clients based on their needs
- What to charge for perpetual licencing
- The most important thing to remember about licencing
What is a Perpetual Licence?
Firstly, let’s start off by understanding what a perpetual licence is in the context of photography.
A perpetual license is a licence to use images indefinitely. This type of licence covers the timeframe of image use. How they are used can change within the license.
An exclusive worldwide perpetual licence would allow a client to have exclusive use of your images, (others can’t use the images), and they can use them worldwide indefinitely.
You can also have a regional-based perpetual print licence. Meaning that a client could print the image in say North America indefinitely.
The main takeaway is that perpetual equals ongoing or indefinitely. Being able to use images indefinitely means the images are now more valuable as they will generate more income for a client over time.
Perpetual licenses should cost more money than a one-time or one year license.
Find Out What the Client *Really* Needs. They Don’t Always Need a Perpetual Licence.
Whilst some clients will demand a perpetual licence and aren’t flexible on this, I have found 9 times out of 10 having a conversation with the client about their true needs and concerns can open up a lot.
I kindly as the client to share their licencing needs with me and why they feel they need a perpetual licence. You’d be surprised by their answers.
Here are the most common reasons a client might request a perpetual licence. Clients:
- Are worried you will licence their images to other clients or competitors.
- Feel it’s the best investment to be able to use the images forever.
- Want flexibility and don’t want to have to look up the usage of the images every time they need them.
- Think this is the best licence for them as they aren’t sure what other options are.
The reason we want to have a conversation with the client is that if any of the above are revealed, you can find solutions for what they need and educate them on pricing for what they really need.
Communication Example to Client
To help you with your communication with your client, here is an example I’ve used in my business when talking to a client. Although I can’t walk you through each example of what the client might come back with, I can help you get started.
Here is a sample of an email I’ve sent to a client on the wording for perpetual licencing discussions. Feel free to use this in your own words.
Educating Your Client on Perpetual Licencing Options
After you have a conversation with a client and hopefully we get some answers from them, if you come across any of the above factors, I’ve got some examples of how I would approach it with clients.
Let’s take a look at each one below.
If Your Client is Worried About Licences For Competitors.
A client doesn’t need a perpetual licence or to even ‘own’ the images to address this. If your conversation has revealed that they are worried about licencing to competitors, you can simply include something in your contract that you won’t sell to direct competitors.
I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but something along these lines would be what you are trying to communicate in your contract. Please seek legal advice for wording in your contract.
“The Photographer agrees not to licence images to direct competitors of the client without express written permission from the client. Direct competitors can be determined by the client”.
If Your Client Thinks the Best Investment is to Use the Images Forever.
Clients often think that they will want to be able to use an image forever but that’s rarely the case. I will often communicate to clients that photos really have a lifespan of 3-5 years.
I’ll also ask them to think about if they will really be using the same image of their product in 5 years? The answer is likely no. In a fast-paced world, we really want to be refreshing our images more than this. Of course, there are occasions where a photo will be well used beyond this timeframe.
I communicate to clients that I don’t want them to have to spend more money than is necessary. My best advice to clients is that if they want to use an image beyond 5 years, they can also purchase an extended licence after 5 years to keep using an image. This will be less costly the next time as they aren’t paying creative fees and often licence renewals can be discounted for being renewed.
Why pay perpetual licencing for all images now, when you might only use one longer than five years? Talk to your clients and share with them that you have their best interests and ROI in mind.
If a Client Wants Flexibilty With Their Licence.
Perpetual licencing does in a way give a client flexibility but only in timeframe, not usage. A perpetual licence doesn’t automatically give clients the rights to use an image in every way possible.
If a client wants the flexibility to use an image on their website, social media, in emails, online marketing and print for tradeshows, they need a broad licence covering these usages. Not solely a perpetual licence.
This is why asking questions, being in communication and educating clients on licencing is important.
A Client is Unsure What the Best Licencing Option For them is.
You can really tailor a licence to be as specific as it needs to be for a client. Asking them what they really need and what’s important to them will often allow you to tailor a licence that suits them.
Often, clients will feel heard and supported. The more you engage the client and appear to care about their needs the more receptive they are. Remember that you are the expert here and your job is to help them navigate this aspect of creative photography.
One thing to keep in mind is that when the licence expires, it doesn’t mean the client needs to remove images previously used. For example, the client doesn’t need to remove the images from a blog post that was created during the licencing period once the period expires.
How Much to Charge For a Perpetual Licence
There are so many factors that go into this that there isn’t an industry standard or formula as creative projects aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
A perpetual licence can be anywhere between 50% to 1,000% the creative fee. That’s because if the creative fee is low, the percentage would be higher. If the creative fee is high, the percentage will be lower.
For those working with a small business whose budget is smaller, I would be pushing them towards a 5-year licence to help them out budget-wise. If they have little budget you can look at 50%-100% of your creative fee and start there. Ask yourself if that feels reasonable, too low or too high.
What’s Most Important is Charging Something & Educating Clients.
Licencing is never an easy conversation and a lot of new photographers shy away from this. This hurts everyone in the industry. The most important thing I think is to educate clients on perpetual licencing and charging something. Over time, you will get better at your licencing packages and talking to clients about usage. This will benefit the industry.
For those starting out, if you’re dealing with a large, well-known company or client push harder for getting paid the correct amount of licencing. Small businesses just don’t have the budget so I am more flexible with them and often include a very simple licence that covers a lot of usages.
Have you ever had experience talking to clients about perpetual licencing? Do you have a formula or percentage that you charge? I’d love to know your comments below!
If this post on photography licencing sparked your interest, be sure to read more on licencing tips here.
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