Freelance: Rights Managed License Agreement

June 3, 2013     / /

While freelancing, a designer must protect themselves from being abused by clients. Some clients seem to think the word “freelance” means “free”. It is up to us as designers to help steer this trend in the other direction. If we want to be taken serious as designers and freelancers, we must earn that respect. On of the best ways to do so, is simply presenting the client with a contract, terms and conditions or some form of legal documentation before any work is begun.

Recently, I had a request from a client to use a photo/illustration I had created years ago. This is not the first request I had received for this particular piece of work. However, something clicked in my head, all of a sudden I realized that I needed some form of legal documentation to protect my rights, the photo and the client. After a little bit of research, pulling from different resources I created my own license agreement. One that would give me protection, while still leaving room for the client to use the requested photo as they wished. The form I was looking for and later ended up creating was a Rights Managed License Agreement.

What is Rights Managed (RM)

Rights managed photos or illustrations are licensed with restrictions on usage, such as limitations on size, placement, duration of use and geographic distribution. Based upon information submitted by the client concerning their intended use of the photo or illustration, will determine what usage rights are granted. Rights Managed images are typically more expensive to license, but they offer greater protection against brand dilution (due to competitors using the same image) and allow for larger print runs and distribution.

Often times a client may request the use of a specific photo or illustration, and that is all they want. It is times like this, where you have no control over the end design, that using a Rights Managed License Agreement is appropriate. Typically a Rights Managed agreement is pretty open ended, and the creator of the photo has control of what is in the contract. Rather than a list of what the client can do with the photo, a standard Rights Managed agreement contains a list of what they can NOT do.

Why Rights Managed?

Using a Rights Managed License Agreement for photos and illustrations put the control into the designer’s or original creator’s hands. It allows the creator to specify exactly how the photo or illustration will be used. While there are empowering right to the designer, there are also may rights specific to the client. Those benefits

I found I had a need for such a contract. One that allowed me the flexibility of still owing the rights to photo, but also gave the client enough freedom to use the desired photo in their design. As I searched the web for a free template. I struggled to find one that fit my needs. So I tore through other’s contracts and agreement and created one that suited me, a Rights Managed License Agreement that was for me a designer. I figured I couldn’t be the only other designer out there in need of such an agreement, so I have made it downloadable and free for all those in need of one.

How to use this Rights Managed License Agreement

This is a single page PDF that can be sent to your clients for signing and approving. As a means of making this contract/agreement applicable to multiple clients, it only defines basic do’s and don’ts for the client. All other agreement terms, such as but not limited to medium, period of time, print run, placement, size of image, territory, etc. should be outlined in an invoice that is attached to the agreement.


(NOTE: I do not claim to be a lawyer or have any knowledge of law. This template/agreement is meant to be a reference and starting point for creating your own. If you choose to use this template/agreement, I am not responsible for any legal fees, actions, responsibilities or obligations associated with this document.)

Download Rights Managed License Agreement

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