You may be wondering, what exactly does purchasing an image, footage, or music “royalty-free” mean? First off, royalty free does not mean the content is free. It’s very rare to find completely free copyrighted material. So what does purchasing royalty-free material mean for you? Purchasing royalty-free gives you the right to use copyrighted material without having to pay a “royalty” or per use fee. Purchasing royalty-free material gives you almost unlimited use of the material. I say almost because usually the license agreement will have some limitations such as resale of the material to a third party.
With images, the royalty-free license gives the purchaser the right to use the image without many restrictions, so the purchaser can use it for various projects and only pay the one time licensing fee.
The term royalty-free in music becomes a bit more tricky to define because the licensing terms are not the same for all music libraries. In general, most sites allow you to purchase the royalty-free license and use the tracks multiple times for your projects, such as video scrapbooks, training videos, promotional videos, etc. Many libraries now have limits on how many times you can use a track (e.g.. an additional license must be purchased if you use the track over 5,000 times) or additional licenses needed for broadcast or commercial use of the tracks.
Which comes to my final and extremely important point: always read the license agreement prior to purchasing royalty-free content or any copyrighted content for that matter. The licenses may vary by the site you are purchasing from, so it’s always important to thoroughly read the agreement to find the restrictions and limitations of the content.