OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my ongoing quest for knowledge and useful information about self-publishing and website development, I’ve read several blogs lately (from purported ‘experts’) that contained misinformation or misinterpretation of standard fair use policies from sites where you can purchase and download royalty free photos. The two I use are iStockphoto and Shutterstock.

One of my concerns was about iStockphoto, from where I’ve purchased most of the images I plan to use on book covers and on my new police professional website. The post I’d read implied that I could not use these products in cover art on my e-books or print on demand publications without springing for a much more expensive ‘extended licence’. I figured, go ‘right to the horse’s mouth’, so I wrote to the support email address at iStockphoto (they’re in Canada, by the way) with three questions:

1. If I use a print on demand service such as Lightning Source to produce a printed non-fiction book for sale through bookstores and through online retailers in hard-copy (less than 50,000 copies), is this permitted?
2. If I use an image purchased from iStockphoto on the cover of a publication intended for electronic use only (e.g., Smashwords, Kindle), is that permitted?
3. If the answer to either/both of these questions is ‘no’, do I purchase an extended licence or am I not allowed to use the image at all?

Here is the response I received (in less than 24 hours)!

  • The Standard License Agreement permits the use of our images on eBooks and printed book covers, and inside books as well providing the image is not the main selling feature (childrens book, coffee table book etc).
  • Please note that under the terms and conditions of the Content License Agreement, you can only reproduce the image up to 500,000 times. More than half a million impressions requires an Extended License (Unlimited Reproductions/Print Runs).
  • For eBooks and for the promotional aspects of your book on the internet, please note that on websites images from iStockphoto cannot be larger than 1200×800 pixels (or the equivalent, so 960,000 pixels total).
  • Our License Agreement allows you to modify the imagery from iStockphoto as much as you need to fit the needs of your final project. For both licenses we have (Standard and Extended), we grant a perpetual (never expires), non-exclusive, non-transferable worldwide license.
  • What we consider “print on demand” is where a user is choosing from a selection of images, a selection of backgrounds and can order a product that way. If your book only has one cover design, then this does not constitute ‘print on demand’ and you are good to go.

I am really impressed, not just with the service, but with how comprehensive and understandable the answer was. The ‘print on demand’ refers not to print services, but to folks who offer the images for resale as part of a package (we know who you are). Thank you, iStockphoto!!

Much as I wish I could count on selling 500,000 copies of my work, I’m realistic about the sales potential. Still, I’m quite relieved that the ‘expert’ blogger was wrong. Just goes to show you…when in doubt, ask the organization you plan to work with about what their terms and conditions are.