Do You Really Know the Terms and Conditions of Your Purchased Media?
“Check the box to agree to the terms and conditions.” Click. Eager to get to the next step on the website or download, you check that box and move on without much thought to what you just agreed to. What’s the risk really? Well, what if you are downloading images to include in an e-learning course? When you’re eager to download and use that image in your project, it’s easy to move on without much thought to what you are agreeing. However, nothing says, “You’re fired” like involving your employer or a client in a copyright infringement lawsuit!
To do things the right way, it’s important to do your research and make no assumptions. Here are some helpful hints which can help you avoid this unpleasant situation.
1. Pick the right license type.
Did you know purchased media can have different types of licenses which limit how that media can be used? Standard licenses, extended licenses, and commercial licenses are just a few of the licenses types you can expect to encounter. It’s important to read, understand, and select the proper license for your purchased media. What does the basic license cover? There’s a fair chance the basic license doesn’t cover your intended use. For example, the standard license for iStock lets you use the image in most e-learning courses. But if you were creating an e-learning template for resale, then you’d need the extended license. Some services, such as Shutterstock, require you to use the extended license if the project is worth more than $10,000.
2. Investigate commercial licenses.
Sometimes you may be required to purchase a commercial license on top of the fee you pay to obtain services from a company. Fiverr is a good example of this. We use Fiverr a lot for character voices in scenario-based training. Fiverr charges the consumer $5.50 to purchase a “gig” from individuals who have placed their profiles on the Fiverr website. Until recently, all you were required to pay was the basic gig fee. Now, they’ve implemented a commercial license in addition to the $5.50 fee if you are using the item for commercial business. The downside to this is that the talent can charge whatever he or she deems necessary. The upside is that then you are free to use the product in any manner you need to. You’ll need to take the time to find out how each service defines commercial use. If you are a non-profit who is selling the course, is that commercial use? If you are an e-learning vendor getting paid to make a course for the government, is that commercial use? You may need to contact the media provider to find out.
3. Keep private information private.
Let’s say you are using a service to record a narration for your e-learning course. Do the standard terms and agreements of that service include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)? Using a NDA lets the voice talent know that the proprietary information he or she learns from recording the course needs to stay confidential. For instance, Fiverr does not require the people who sign up to do “gigs” to sign a NDA. If you want the person you hire to keep the information confidential, you would need to provide that person with your own NDA. Fiverr cannot be held responsible if the person you hired shares information with a third party.
4. Know your restrictions.
So, let’s say you’ve followed all the necessary guidelines, purchased the correct license, and you’re ready to use a photo in your course. Are there any restrictions about HOW you use it? Some companies have restrictions on using stock photos of people in an “unflattering light.” For example, is the photo being used with a subject matter that would be considered “sensitive” such as criminal behavior or some kind of mental or physical illness? This can be a difficult area to navigate. What really constitutes “unflattering”? What I think is offensive might be considered appropriate to someone else. Use this filter when thinking about how you’re going to use a photo so that you are not implying the model in the photo is endorsing that subject matter or has that particular ailment. Some sites’ license agreements do let you use images in situations like these as long as you include a disclaimer.
All the rules and regulations involved in using photos, graphics, or audio can seem daunting, but with a little persistent research, the answer you need about your specific situation can be found. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company you’re using to purchase the image or audio. If the terms and conditions are still fuzzy, ask a contact at the company for clarification. In doing so, you can be assured that the finished product not only looks and sounds great, and that it meets all the legal requirements, too.