The difference between editorial and royalty-free stock media

The Difference Between Editorial and Royalty-free Stock Media

Stock media platforms often offer their digital assets via different licenses. The most common are “editorial” and “royalty-free”. But what does that really mean, and what are the differences? In this article, we break down the differences between editorial and royalty-free stock media.

Editorial license

An Editorial Licence allows the buyer to use the media for non-commercial purposes only. This means you can’t use it in any way which brings monetary gain, for example advertising for your brand.

Stock media with an editorial licence should be used to create content for:

  • An internal company presentation
  • A newspaper or news website
  • On a website or blog
  • A documentary

Common examples of Editorial media:

  • Pictures or videos which show a trademarked logo, even on a building or facade.
  • Any picture or video where you can identify people (if the photographer hasn’t obtained a model release from the people portrayed)
  • A picture or video of a celebrity
  • Any picture or video showing trademarked buildings or locations

Royalty-Free (Commercial licence)

Often referred to as “royalty-free stock media” (or in some cases “free copyright video”, or “copyright free video”), royalty-free is the most common licence, which platforms selling both images and videos use. When you buy a piece of stock media with a royalty-free licence you can use it in any way you like, even for commercial purpose. It could for example be:

  • A video production marketing your own, or your clients brand and products
  • In TV and Film productions
  • In your website banner video
  • On your Youtube channel

Since you own the license, reselling or passing on a royalty-free clip or image is not allowed. This option is often more expensive than editorial.


You’re putting together a presentation for your colleagues about how your company is becoming more digital. You will symbolise this with a picture or video of someone using an iPhone. Which license do you require?

Answer: Editorial – you’re using branded content from someone else and you’re not trying to promote your company or make any money of the content you have created.

You’re looking to create a video for social media telling the world how great your business is at being digital first. Therefore, you will buy a video of a woman using a laptop and one of a man using a smartphone. Which license do you require?

Answer: Royalty-free (commercial) – since you are advertising your business and stand to gain customers and income from doing so. Don’t forget that because people are identifiable in the videos you will also to make sure that a model release is present with your license.

What you can’t do with a royalty-free license?

All stock platforms have different rules, here are the rules for how you are not allowed to use royalty-free footage from VReel:

  • No Unlawful Use. Content may not be used in a pornographic, defamatory or other unlawful manner, or in violation of any applicable regulations.
  • No Use to Replicate a Similar Service. You may not use content from the VReel platform to replicate or recreate a service in competition with us.
  • No ‘Original’ File Use. You may not use content in any way that allows others to download, extract, or redistribute content as a standalone file (meaning just the content file itself, separate from the project or end use), this includes sections and segments of the ‘original’ file in any arrangement and the full ‘original’ file itself.
  • No Digital Templates. Unless you purchase a custom license or a partnership agreement is made before the fact, you may not use content in electronic or digital templates intended for resale or other distribution (for example, website templates).

Do you have any questions on how you can use Editorial or Royalty-free footage from VReel? Get in touch through our live chat tool or send us an email.

Be sure to check out our article on How Free Stock Video Works.


How to find the right stock footage

How to find the right stock footage

With an increasing number of stock platforms available on the market, the supply of stock footage is huge. Quite often buyers end up in a

VReel Contributor Profile: BeemFlights

VReel Contributor Profile: BeemFlights

We came across you and your brother through your drone flying when VReel started off as a drone platform. How long have you been flying a drone and how did you get into it? We’ve been flying drones for many years, probably around seven years, more or less. In Holland we were one of the first companies using drones for making videos and photography.