The Difference between Rights Managed and Royalty-Free Images

Rights managed or royalty free? Many people are confused which license to get for their creative projects. If you are going to be a part of a creative community, you should know how to play the rules. You need to know the difference between RM and RF, so you can get the best license that suits your creative needs without overspending for what you don’t really need. To help you tell them apart, we’re going to break it down for you.


  • Rights Managed. Rights managed allows you to license the image based on usage. The licensing fee is decided according to location, length of time that image will be used, and the type of media. You can also opt for exclusive rights if you want to use the image for a duration of time alone, without worrying about finding the same image in your rivals’ website. Of course, there are some restrictions applied that you should follow. Check out the difference between Rights Managed and Royalty-Free here.
  • Royalty-free. Royalty-free is the most common type of license in the market. Many stock photo agencies offer RF to creative professionals around the world. You only have to pay a one-time fee and you can use the images for as long as you want in any creative project. Essentially known as unrestricted content”, the price of the images usually depends on the resolution and size of the image. You will have no exclusivity rights, so you might see the images in other websites.

If you purchase a rights managed image, you have the option to include exclusive rights for that image for in a specific location for a period of time. For instance, you are licensing the image in South America for one year. You can expect that nobody else can purchase and download the same image. The higher the price of the rights managed image means the lesser it has been used. This is fairly ideal for you because this means the likeliness to find the same image in another company is slim, even without exclusivity rights.


Royalty-free grants non-exclusive, unlimited and multiple use of stock images. It often includes a few restrictions and is paid one-time. On the other hand rights managed provides time-limited and geographically-restricted use of images. Oftentimes, it grants exclusive usage on a specified duration of time. It only covers the consigned use, so if you need to use the image for a different purpose, you have to acquire another license.

To choose which license to get, there are a number of things you need to consider such as price, exclusivity, and others. Small to medium businesses that run ads can benefit from royalty-free. If you want a higher level of protection that you cannot have with RF, you should get rights managed.