Editorial Use in Photography

In this post, I will try to explain what is meant by this term and why it is important to clearly understand its limits to avoid possible legal conflicts.

The main elements defining the term “editorial use” are the following:

Use not intended to promote, advertise or endorse a product or service.

Main objective is to illustrate a factual article, book, news broadcast, documentary, or film concerning a matter that is newsworthy or of public interest such as political, social or cultural events.

These elements must be taken into account, even if the organization using the image is a non-profit organization.

Important points to take into account:

Although is it true that most editorial uses of images are made in editorial publications, not all images published in such publications can be considered editorial uses.

To determine, if we are using an image editorially, the key element to be taken into consideration is how the photograph is being used and not the medium in which it is being published.

Let’s try to illustrate this with some examples:

The above image depicting runners in a TCS NY Marathon could be used in a sports magazine to:

Illustrate an article about the NY Marathon.

Promote the sale of a world renowned brand of protein powder for runners.

As we can see from these two examples, although the image is published in the same editorial publication, only the first use can be considered an editorial use as in the second one the image is used in an ad to promote the product.

Let’s take another example:

The above image representing a painting of Salvador Dali can be used in a book about modern art:

Inside the book to illustrate a text commenting on the works of art created by Dali.

In a book cover.

Only the first use can be considered editorial where the image is used to illustrate a text commenting the painting. The second use shall be considered commercial as its main objective is to enhance the publication and make it more attractive to clients to purchase the book.

Let’s look now at this last example.

The above image depicts a world renowned Swiss watch which can be used in a magazine:

To illustrate a text commenting on world renowned Swiss watches brands.

In an advertisement of a Swiss Bank.

Here again, only the first use can be considered editorial.

As we have seen, in an editorial use the purpose of usage is generally to report or provide commentary on the subject in the image and not to promote or endorse any product or service.

I hope this will give you a better idea of what can and cannot be considered an editorial use.

Marisol Muñiz

Legal Counsel at agefotostock