Outsourcing graphic design work online has never been easier – we have all these freelancing sites available now where we can simply order a logo or banner design with the click of a button. One of such sites that I have always recommended for budget work is fiverr.com
But is it really as simple as it sounds? You pay $5 and get a professional banner design done? Or are there some underlying issues you have to be aware of?
This is exactly what Mark was asking in a recent message to me:
You recommend Fiverr so I was hoping you can help clarify something that has gotten me confused.
I’ve had a gig done for me for a banner through Fiverr, however on looking up the image on google images, the background shows as a Getty Images stock photo.
I understand some people have years later had £2k bills land on their doorstep for copyright infringement from Getty so I want to be sure I’m on the right side of the law here.
Are designers allowed to use Getty on Fiverr and when they do does the order constitute a Perpetual Licence for you to use the work on your website?
For example if say years from now Getty come knocking at the door asking for money, will my order be proof I have paid perpetual licence to the designer who must (I assume) have paid Getty to use that image in his design?
Thanks for your question Mark!
You have raised a very interesting and important question about graphic design & image licensing and it is a complex one indeed.
To start with, for people who are not aware of this, there are websites online where you can purchase photos, graphics and other art work. Sites like:
The way these sites work is that designers, photographers and graphic artists submit their work on these sites and upon approval they get listed. Then, when someone buys an image from the site, the creator/owner gets paid a fixed fee or a percentage of the sale (depending on the company).
These images are usually called “Royalty FREE” which means that once you buy them, you can use them in various ways. Now, the exact ways of use will depend on the website you bought the image from and their licensing terms. For example most websites allow to use the artwork in graphic design for you and your clients BUT you can’t put the artwork on a product you produce (mugs, for example). For that you would have to buy an extended licence which usually costs $100 or more for each image.
But to keep things simple, let’s just concentrate on web design for now. Most of these sites allow you to use images in any design you do for yourself or your clients. And many freelance graphic designers that work on Fiverr and other site do use these images to create designs for clients.
The important thing here is to check whether that designer has actually BOUGHT the image they’re using in your work or not. As some designers may simply steal images from Google or somewhere else, which could get you in trouble.
So what you can do is simply ask the designer where they got the image used in your work from? And ask them to provide proof (screenshots) that they have actually purchased that image. Now of course, some designers may not want to do that or sometimes it’s even not possible to prove but still – you should ask.
An even safer way would be for you to purchase that image on your own. Yes that’s right, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to buy artwork from stock image websites – anyone can do so. This way you know 100% that you have paid for the image. The only downside to this is that you’ll most likely have to pay a premium price for that image as usually these websites have a sliding price scale, which means that for example:
- if you buy just one image, it will cost you $10 ($10 per image)
- If you buy 10 images, it will cost you $50 ($5 per image)
- If you buy 100 images, it will cost you $200 ($2 per image)
Basically, if you need to purchase just one image, it may be quite expensive. But then again you’ll know 100% that you have full rights to use this image in your designs.
I personally use colourbox.com for all my royalty-free image needs as their pricing is very good when you’re on a subscription plan. Individual images cost 9.5 EUR though but if you need more than one image, you could subscribe for one month, for 30 EUR, get 10 images and then simply cancel your membership. You can then re-activate your membership whenever you need more images.
And to answer Mark’s question about his Fiverr order being proof of purchasing a licence – no, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. Every freelance site will have a disclaimer covering this scenario in their Terms & Conditions – basically they won’t be held responsible if a freelancer screws up and uses an illegal file in your work.
It gets even worse – stock image websites will also have this disclaimer in their Terms & Conditions – that they have very limited liability or no liability at all if it turns out that someone else submitted artwork to them with no rights. So for all intents and purposes, you can’t really rely on any of these companies in that way!
But don’t let this scare you off – if you purchase your own royalty free images OR make sure that your designer has purchased them, the chances of you getting into trouble are very, very slim. I would say that you’re more likely to win a few million in the lottery!
Lastly, make sure you check the licence terms from the site you or your designer purchases images from as some companies will have very specific rules on how you can use them. It’s for this reason actually that I use Colourbox as their licence terms are the best I have found online. They even allow you to use files on manufactured goods, say mugs or t-shirts, without having to pay for an extended licence.
Hope this helps Mark!
Have a great weekend everyone!