Community, Pro Tips

Your Guide to Royalty-Free Footage Licensing


When you’re searching for stock video to use for your projects, we know you want to focus on getting the best possible content. Of course, trying to understand the ins and outs of licensing media can sometimes seem challenging, so below you’ll find everything you need to know about selecting the right license for your project.

The Benefits of Choosing the Right License

A good guideline when determining which type of license you need is to first look at who the content is for, where it’s being distributed, and who the audience is. (We’ve included project type examples for each type of license, but they’re more for illustrative purposes.)

That way, when you purchase your license, you’re also getting peace of mind, knowing that you’re protecting yourself, your business, and your clients. Different licenses include different levels of legal protection, such as indemnity, as well as flexibility to fit any team or project.

Royalty-Free Licensing

A royalty-free license means you’re able to use the content you get from Pond5 without having to pay the original artist every time it’s used, as long as it’s used in a way that is covered by your license type. Pond5 offers a simple, royalty-free license to cover every usage, from major productions to personal projects.

Dogs Dressed As Kings by StockElements

Worldwide Use, In Perpetuity

“Worldwide use of our media in perpetuity” is a fancy way of saying that you have the royalty-free license to use your purchased assets anywhere on the planet, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, for the rest of time. Again, this is only true if you’re using the asset in a way that is covered by your license type.

Seats and Users

When we refer to “seats,” we really mean “access points to the licensed content.” Seats are not exactly the same thing as users. A “seat” is a single user, person, or computer, as well as a hard drive or cloud storage account accessible to one person. It should be noted that a seat cannot be shared or passed along, so each new way of accessing the content (or new person accessing the content) is an additional seat. Your number of seats equals the maximum number of access points to the licensed content you can have.

Children Play Musical Chairs, 1950s by SCCRENO

If you’re trying to build a library of content, you pretty much need to have unlimited seats, which means a Premium License. If you need more clarity, or want a license that allows for a custom number of seats, email or call +1 (855) 410-6789 for more information.

Types of Licenses

Pond5 offers four different kinds of licenses for video purchased on the site. The following information details what’s included with each license. For definitions of the terms used, continue reading below.

Individual License

The Individual License is great for exactly that — individuals. If you’re doing work for a company, a team, or something larger than your own small or local project, you’ll likely need a Business or Premium license.

Indemnification Coverage: Up to $15k
Seats: 1
Broadcast or OTT Type: Typically Local
Client Size: Local
Distributor Size: Local
Example Usage: Student projects, video backgrounds on landing pages, work presentations, trade-show signage

Business License

The Business License is ideal for agencies or small-to-medium-sized businesses, especially those that aren’t fully equipped to handle legal claims. With increased indemnification for your production, you’ll be able to protect both yourself and your client.

Indemnification Coverage: Up to $250k
Seats: Up to 5
Broadcast or OTT Type: Typically Regional
Client Size: Regional
Distributor Size: Regional
Example usage: In-house production, social-media promotion, art prints/posters, greeting cards

Premium License

The Premium License covers national and global use and productions for large-scale companies and agencies. Extra benefits include unlimited users, transfer of raw file content, sensitive-use options (available by contacting, and template use for apps or video games.

Indemnification Coverage: Up to $1M
Seats: Unlimited
Broadcast or OTT Type: National/Global
Client Size: National/Global
Distributor Size: National+
Example usage: Broadcast or feature film, advertising, nationwide commercials, app creations

Comparison, Hologram Futuristic Interface by RollingCamera

Custom License

For situations outside of the three main licensing offerings, Pond5 also offers custom licenses. If you only need part of your license agreement changed, a custom license might be a cost-effective answer. Some unique situations might include:

• Increased indemnification
• Non-synced music license (such as holding music or sound effects for apps or toys)
• Injunctive relief waiver (to comply with media-company license requirements)
• Digital-only license (high-resolution clips with reduced distribution across social media and web)
• Commercial clearance for use of editorial content
• Sensitive use, raw file transfer rights, or increased seats for Individual or Business Licenses
• Logo use (including imagery, video, or audio), trademark use, or resale

If you need help selecting the right license, or you need anything in the above list, call +1 (855) 410-6789 or email and we’ll be happy to help.

Distributor Size vs. Broadcast/OTT Type

Distributor size is the geographical area of distribution, usually defined as local, regional, national, or global. Broadcast or OTT is a distribution type — OTT stands for “over-the-top,” and refers to distributing TV or film content over the internet.

If your audience is local (for example, an internal school system), that’s covered by the Individual License. If you want to do something regional (such as a tri-state area advertisement or local news broadcast), that’s covered by the Business License. For national or global distribution like Netflix, you’ll need a Premium License. If you are working with any major media company (like Netflix, Disney, etc.), check with our team for a license agreement that has already been pre-approved by your distributor.

Uses Not Covered by Pond5 Licenses

You cannot use Pond5 licensed content for logos, trademarks, or reselling the content directly. Other uses that aren’t covered by our main licenses are listed in the “custom license” section above. Contact our sales team to discuss any of these scenarios at +1 (855) 410-6789 or

Sensitive-Use Content

Essentially, sensitive use may kick in if you’re using content in a way that would make a reasonable person believe that the subject of your presentation:

    • suffers from or is being treated for a physical or mental condition
    • endorses a particular product or service
    • is an advocate of a particular elected official, political candidate, party, or belief
    • is depicted as having a negative/controversial opinion or association

That representation could result in the subject being shown in a not-so-great way. Common examples of this include pharmaceutical or political ads. It’s kind of like that episode of Friends when Joey finds his face on a poster that implies he has a venereal disease. While he might have originally agreed to having his image licensed for stock photography, the organization behind the VD awareness poster would have needed to make sure they had a license for “sensitive use” of his image.

Businessman in Car Dancing Like Crazy by fabianaponzi

Sensitive-use materials are covered only with a Pond5 Premium License or through a custom license.

Digital-Only Licenses

A digital-only license refers to the distribution of high-resolution Pond5 assets across social media and the internet. (This can get a bit confusing, because we also offer “web-only content,” which refers to assets that are formatted and priced specifically for social and web use. The term “web-only” is not related to our distribution licenses.)

For some projects, you might only need distribution of those high-resolution assets across specific social or web channels, as opposed to wider, national or global distribution. For example, if you want to put your video project only on YouTube instead of Netflix, you might save some money by looking into a digital-only license for those assets.

Happy Couple at Home Streaming Video Content by stockmarketfilms

Editorial Content Use

Commercial use means you’re using the content for your own (or your client’s or company’s) benefit, such as advertising, promotional, or merchandising uses. Editorial use is typically thought of as non-advertising use in published articles, non-commercial films or documentaries, news reports, or textbooks. Use in blog posts can get a bit confusing, but a guideline is that using the asset for illustrative or educational purposes is likely editorial use.

All of the assets on Pond5 have a usage type noted in the item details area. However, if you want to obtain a license for commercial use of an editorial clip (it might be possible!), you’ll need to chat with us about a custom license. Email or call +1 (855) 410-6789 for more information.

Indemnification and When You Need It

We also note that Pond5 licenses come “with options to add increased legal protection and additional users.” This is where it starts to get into a bit of legal-ese, so let’s break it down: when we say “legal protection,” we usually mean “indemnity.”

Indemnity means that one party (in our case, Pond5) pays the expenses of the other party (likely you or your company) if some legal expenses arise. These expenses may include things like the cost of settlements. This is particularly useful if you’re creating content for clients, as neither you nor your client will have to spend time embroiled in any legal issues. You’ll be free to continue to focus on creating great content.

Serious Lawyers Looking at the Camera by Wavebreak_video

Many buyers, especially large brands or those creating content with wide distribution, need indemnification coverage for the media they license as a legal requirement for producing new work. The Pond5 Business License has $250K in coverage, and the Pond5 Premium License provides $1M of coverage. Even the Pond5 Individual License automatically comes with the most individual indemnification coverage in the industry at $15K. Custom levels of indemnification are also available on request.

If you aren’t comfortable choosing the level of indemnification you need, we suggest that you check with your (or your client’s) legal team. In our experience, they love reviewing this kind of thing. You can also contact our license specialists at +1 (855) 410-6789 or to customize your indemnification coverage or license plan.

Template Use

When we say “template use” in our licenses, we’re referring to anything that can be replicated. Common examples of this can be apps, video games, or anything where a code can be downloaded to a device. Other examples include using the asset to create another element, like a Paperless Post invite, (where you create another element), PowerPoint templates, or themes for Google Docs. You’re replicating the asset across different devices, so you’ll need a Premium License for that.

Usage of Watermarked Previews

Previews of full-resolution Pond5 files aren’t considered licensed content, so you don’t have permission (and are not covered) to use the preview version of any asset in front of an audience. Preview files exist only for your personal use in deciding which files you want to purchase.

Slow Motion: Breathtaking Turquoise Barrel Wave by Airstock

Providing Licensee Information

The licensee information you enter when purchasing your files might be different than your personal information, so double-check that you’ve put in the right client or business information there.

And that just about covers it! Simple, right? Okay, maybe not, but it’s as simple as we could make it. As always, we’re here to help, so if you still have any questions about licensing, just reach out to +1 (855) 410-6789 or

Top image: Rear View of Editing Room by MediaWhalestock