Licensing 101

If you’re new to stock footage or photography, the language might stump you at first. What’s the difference between a license and a release? Royalty-free and rights-managed? Commercial and editorial? Get your head around the lingo with this primer.


You don’t purchase a clip or photo, you license the right to use it in your project in the way described by the license. Licenses are either royalty-free or rights-managed.


Royalty-free (RF) clips and photos may be used in an unlimited number of projects and mediums, for an unlimited duration, worldwide. An RF license is convenient, versatile, and pretty open-ended.


Rights-managed (RM) clips and photos are available for license on a per-project basis. They are typically more distinct in content and style. The license is defined by a combination of medium (such as advertising or film), usage (such as theatrical or online advertising), scale (region or audience), and duration. With an RM license, you can license only for the uses you require and you can license clips and photos exclusively for your project.

Release status

Whether it’s royalty-free or rights-managed, every clip and photo also has a release status. This status defines how that clip or photo may be used, based on permissions granted by the people in it, or by owners of properties shown. The two kinds of releases are commercial and editorial.


Clips and photos released for commercial uses have all necessary model and property releases. They may be used in virtually any commercial or editorial context, including commercials, documentaries, films, corporate videos, websites, video games, and software applications.


Clips and photos available for editorial use only do not have model and/or property releases. These items may be used in editorial contexts only, such as documentaries, non-fiction shorts, videojournalism (news), and other non-promotional contexts.

A clip or photo could be editorial-only for a few reasons: The people in it are recognizable (famous or not), and have not signed model releases. The location the footage was shot at requires a property release, but it was not obtained. Trademarks, logos, or copyrighted works of art are identifiable.

Additional coverage

Extended license

An extended license grants additional rights for your usage of an RF clip. For example, if you wish to use the clip in a product that will be sold (such as footage of a golf course in an instructional golf video), you must obtain an extended license. An extended license also allows the usage of a clip in a software template and an unlimited number of users at an organization to work with the clip.

Your may add coverage to your usage of RF photos at Dissolve a few different ways. You can add unlimited users, an unlimited print run, and product for resale options, each for a separate fee.

See pricing details.


Under the standard license, Dissolve’s total aggregate liability is limited to 10 times the purchase value. To increase the liability to $250,000 USD or more, you may purchase an additional legal guarantee.

TV and film riders

For an additional fee, you may request to purchase clips under a rider that ensures the clips will be available for worldwide use, in all mediums, for the life of your project. (Dissolve waives the right to “enjoin” a production or withdraw content as in section 9 of our End User License Agreement.)

For more information on licensing footage and photography and details on what exactly you can do with a clip or photo, read Licensing clips and photos from Dissolve, or ask us anything at


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