What is Content Licensing + How Does It Impact Bloggers?

Blogger Alicia Tenise breaks down content ownership and why bloggers shouldn't hand over the rights to their work for free. - What is Content Licensing + How Does It Impact Bloggers? by popular Washington DC style blogger Alicia Tenise

2017 was the first full year that I blogged full-time. I went to conferences, workshops, and classes to soak up as much info as I could about the industry. I don’t have a manager or an agent (and after a lot of thought, I don’t wish to have one right now!), so it’s up to me to review every single contract and negotiate terms for every single project that I’m working on.

One pesky little clause kept popping up in so many contracts? Licensing and ownership. Tl;dr — signing over the rights to your photos can be a bad thing, and as a blogger, you should avoid it as much as possible. If you have a little more time to learn, here’s what photo licensing is, why it can be a bad thing, and what you can do if you see it in your agreements.

What is Content Licensing?

Short story? If a company owns a license to your content, they’re able to use the content you created…without crediting you.

In-depth? A company can acquire different types of licenses for various periods of time. If it’s a full license, that means they can use your work on social, email marketing campaigns, print — heck, they could put your face on a billboard if they wanted to (and legally do not have to credit you for your work). Some companies ask for a digital-only license which spans social media/email/website marketing only.

If a license is perpetual, it means it’s forever. Sometimes a company will ask for a license for a month, a year, two years, etc.

Content Licensing – Why A License Can Be A Bad Thing

First things first: why is handing over a license to your work a bad thing? There’s a huge pay difference between a company wanting to advertise on your website vs. a brand wanting to own your content — and trust me, for a company to own your work, they’re likely going to be paying at least 3-4 times more for ownership rights than what your sponsored rate is. 

My boyfriend is a professional photographer who’s worked with restaurants across the U.S. When preparing a quote for them, he asks about licensing. Just because he’s shooting photos for them doesn’t mean the brand owns those images — as a content creator, you own your work. If a brand wants to purchase those ownership rights from a creative professional, they’re usually paying four to five figures for those rights.

Now think about your sponsored post rate. Typically when you create your sponsored post rate, you base it on the scope of work for the campaign and how large of a reach you have. You’re not factoring in ownership rights to your work. If a brand wants to own the rights to your work in addition to advertising on your platforms, they should pay an additional fee for this. If they refuse, you should ask for the clause to be removed from your agreement.

The Simplified Planner - What is Content Licensing + How Does It Impact Bloggers? by popular Washington DC style blogger Alicia Tenise

How Do I Know if a Brand Wants to License My Content?

A lot of companies don’t mention the whole “rights to your work” thing when you’re negotiating a deal: they usually slip it in a contract. If you’re signing a contract, look out for clauses that look something like this:

+ Company shall have the right to use in any way, including without limitation, reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of, publicly display and perform the Content, together with or without Influencer’s name, or Influencer’s image, voice, biography, quotes, statements, likeness, on-camera performance  (collectively, “Likeness) on any print or online medium, including without limitation, the Websites, Internet, social media channels, email newsletter and press materials. Company shall have the right to use the Content without reference to any of Influencer’s Likeness in perpetuity without any royalties or additional payment due.

+ Company shall own all right, title and interest in and to the Services and any related materials (collectively, the “Material”) in perpetuity from the inception of their creation, including the worldwide copyrights thereto and all renewals thereto, free from any claims whatsoever by any person, including any claims by you or any person(s) deriving rights from you.

There are other ways brands word this, but if you see the keywords “own rights” or “perpetual license,” they’re most likely putting in the contract that they own the rights to your work. I know most of us are not lawyers. It’s not easy to read contracts that brands send over, and it takes a good deal of time out of our day to read through a lengthy contract. I send out my own contract as much as possible, but sometimes when you’re working with a major brand, they’re going to require you to sign their contract. If you have or know a lawyer, it’s worth it for them to take a quick glance at every contract you sign to make sure it doesn’t do more harm than good.

Content Licensing – Product Only Collabs + Content Ownership

Another thing that’s hit my inbox lately? I’ve had a few offers that are for product only, yet the brand wanted ownership of photos. Nope.

I was offered a comped stay at a hotel, but when we were negotiating the deal, they asked: “Of the images you capture that are not lifestyle of the hotel, do you grant full access and rights to use the images after you complete your post on the blog and social media channels?”

NOPE. Nope nope. If you’re not getting paid, do not hand over full access and rights to your images. To give you perspective, photographers are paid thousands for this kind of work, and you’re only getting a one-night hotel stay or a dress in exchange for producing marketing materials for them that they can blast in their email, websites, stores, print ads, etc. Not worth it!

Content Licensing – Beware of Sneaky Social Media Asks

So: your dream brand comments on your photo saying that they love your pic. Congrats! They might leave you a comment looking something like this:

What is Content Licensing + How Does It Impact Bloggers? by popular Washington DC style blogger Alicia Tenise

Trust me; I love LOFT. I love a regram as much as you do. But…you’re giving someone rights and ownership of your photo for free. Usually, if a brand leaves one of these comments, I’ll reply back and say that I’m ok with a repost on social media with credit. Nine times out of 10, it works, and I’ll still get a feature without handing over the rights to my photo.

Content Licensing – How to Negotiate With Brands

If you see this clause in your contract, I’ll typically reply back with this:

“My photographer does not let me hand over rights to any of my work. I am happy to grant permission for [BRAND NAME] to repost my work on social media only as long as I am tagged/credited in the caption. If you are interested in ownership rights to the images, my photographer would need to be paid a licensing fee.”

Sometimes, the brand will go ahead and remove the clause from the contract. Other times, the brand might insist on leaving it in or shortening the licensing period. I’ll negotiate a higher rate if they request it, but I have had to walk away from a few deals if the brand doesn’t budge on the clause or the budget. 

Have any questions on content licensing? Let me know in the comments!

Photos by Tom McGovern

Leave a Comment


  1. Michsi wrote:

    Kudos for making this a post! This is great information and it’s nice to see bloggers sharing the wealth.

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  2. Lauren wrote:

    Alicia! YESSSSS to this post. Such a great resource for bloggers who don’t know — and shoot, a good reminder for those of us who do!

    Lauren Elyce

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  3. Klassic Karen wrote:

    As a new blogger, this was really interesting to read. I worked for a company once and first heard of photo licensing from the photographer I was working with at the time, I certainly didn’t know that content can be licensed too!!


    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  4. Ayla Diktas wrote:

    wow so informative, thanks so much for this. Def going to keep this in mind!

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  5. Dana Mannarino wrote:

    This post is AMAZING! I was so naive back in the day, but now I take licensing agreements SO seriously. I was actually shocked at how easy it was to get companies to agree to pay my licensing fee. Such a great resource, definitely bookmarking this for reference!

    The Champagne Edit

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  6. Thank you so much for sharing this post on a topic that I don’t think bloggers feel comfortable negotiating with brands. It’s so easy to say yes in hopes of more exposure, but handing over your rights is a big no no. Brands typically understand this and wouldn’t hold it against a blogger if they don’t want to give over licensing for artwork and graphics…but you’re absolutely right, it’s usually tucked in somewhere on a contract.

    Guess my grandpa was right, as boring as it may be…read and understand every word of a document before signing your name to it.

    xoxo – Kelly

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  7. Emily wrote:

    Wow – very informative. Thank you so much for sharing and explaining in such good detail! Also, I’m from Washington DC as well! Such a fun place to live and blog! <3
    xoxo, Emily


    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  8. Nathalie Sophia wrote:

    I definitely did not know all of that! I’m so glad I read your post! I will be referring back to this for sure!


    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  9. Jenni L. wrote:

    This is a great overview on licencing! We have to negotiate the licencing each time we take photos of a project at my job outside of blogging. It’s something that so many people aren’t aware of.

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  10. wow thanks for sharing this..I have been blogging over 3 years and some of this I was not aware of!

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  11. Samantha Nicole wrote:

    This was SUPER informative- thank you! It hadn’t even crossed my mind before, but I feel so much more equipped now.


    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  12. Tami Villa wrote:

    Such helpful information here. It can be surprisingly difficult to find true business advice for bloggers out there. So many seem to focus on tactics for growing your blog, but it’s harder to find solid, clear advice on things like contract clauses, taxes, etc. Thank you for sharing, Alicia!

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  13. Katherine wrote:

    This is super helpful! Some of these things never come up and it’s so important for bloggers to know the law and how to protect their content.

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  14. autum wrote:

    This post is sooo juicy! Bookmarking this one, I signed a contract a few months ago and I didn’t think to see if this was in it. I pretty sure I signed over my content 🙁 Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  15. Ruthie Ridley wrote:

    This was SO Informative and HELPFUL!! Saving this post! Thank you so much!!!

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  16. Sara Nichols wrote:

    This was a really interesting read, and as a new blogger, something I had never really thought of.

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  17. Jenny wrote:

    This is so helpful and important. Totally need to keep this in mind in the future.

    Posted 1.17.18 Reply
  18. India H. wrote:

    Wow, this was so helpful and something I never would’ve thought of! Thank you for posting!

    Posted 1.18.18 Reply
  19. Holly Lasha wrote:

    Great information. This is very helpful stuff!!

    Posted 1.18.18 Reply
  20. Lauren wrote:

    It’s really scary how much bloggers and influencers can be taken advantage of by brands. Thank you so, so much for informing your readers!

    Posted 1.18.18 Reply
  21. Aitza B wrote:

    This is so important. I’m reworking my photography contract because I want to work with bloggers, so I really want to stress this part of them not handing over image ownership, manipulation, and getting the credit where credit is due.

    Posted 1.18.18 Reply
  22. Denay DeGuzman wrote:

    Wow, is this an essential read for all bloggers! Contracts can be overwhelming, and knowing what to look for and having the confidence to speak up and protect your content and images is very important.

    Posted 1.18.18 Reply
  23. Helena Freeman wrote:

    OMG! This post was helpful… Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 1.23.18 Reply
  24. Alicia this post was everything and so helpful and informative!

    Posted 2.12.18 Reply