What is “editorial use”?
By Andrew Hudson Published: September 27, 2011 Updated: May 9, 2016
Editorial Use is a publishing term based on the Fair Use exception of copyright law where copyrighted work can be used without authorization for purposes of news reporting, criticism, education, etc. It contrasts with “Commercial Use.”
“The Editorial Use Only license means that the image cannot be used for commercial advertising purposes.”
— iStockphoto Photography Standards: Editorial Use Only
Under U.S. copyright law and British common law, there is a concept of “fair use” (or “fair dealing”). When the public good is served, publishers do not need permission from the copyright holder to make copies of a copyrighted work.
The publishing industry extends this concept into other forms of intellectual property under the term “Editorial Use.” Note that this is not a legal term and does not have a fixed definition.
There is no defined line between editorial and commercial use, and it is often up to the publisher to take the risk. Ultimately only a court ruling can decide a case.
“The commercial nature of a use is a matter of degree, not an absolute …”
— Maxtone-Graham v. Burtchaell, 803 F. 2d 1253 - Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 1986
“[When the use has both commercial and non-profit characteristics, the court may consider] whether the alleged infringing use was primarily for public benefit or for private commercial gain.”
— MCA, Inc. v. Wilson, 677 F.2d 180, 182 (2d Cir.1981)
Editorial Use in microstock
The microstock industry considers “Editorial Use Only” photos to be ones that simply do not have all the applicable model and property releases and thus should not be used for “commercial” applications. It is up to the buyer (the user, the publisher) to make the distinction based on the use of the image.
Shutterstock … does not make any representations or warranties whatsoever with respect to the use of names, trademarks, logos, uniforms, registered or copyrighted designs or works of art depicted in any image. So it is important to consult with your own legal and to review your license agreement to make sure that all necessary rights, consents or permissions as may be required for reproduction of any image have been secured by you.
Notice that, in this context, Editorial is not so much a something as it is an absence of something, namely releases.
Editorial Use as defined by iStock
The Editorial Use Only license means that the image cannot be used for commercial advertising purposes.
An Editorial Use Only image can be used:
- In a newspaper or magazine article
- On a blog or website for descriptive purposes
- In a non-commercial presentation
An Editorial Use Only image cannot be used:
- In any kind of advertising or promotional material.
- For any ‘advertorial’ purposes, i.e. in sections or supplements in relation to which you receive a fee from a third party advisor or sponsor.
For more information, read editorial and commercial.