Key Takeaways:

  • Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution.
  • As a major stock photo and video provider, Shutterstock offers millions of images and clips, ensuring each is properly licensed to avoid copyright issues.
  • Shutterstock often faces copyright infringement claims when users download and use content without proper licensing or attribution, violating the creator’s rights.

In the digital age, where visual content plays a vital role in communication, stock image platforms like Shutterstock have become go-to sources for creatives and businesses seeking high-quality images.

However, alongside the benefits of using such platforms, the issue of copyright infringement looms large.

This article discusses Shutterstock copyright infringement, explores its consequences, and provides guidance on how to avoid it.

Shutterstock Copyright Infringement

Shutterstock is a leading stock image platform that hosts millions of images, videos, and music tracks for users to license and use in their projects.

As a contributor-based platform, Shutterstock provides a marketplace for content creators to showcase their work and earn royalties.

However, with the ease of access to vast image libraries comes the risk of copyright infringement.

On Shutterstock, infringement could involve using images without purchasing the appropriate license, modifying images beyond the allowed usage, or using images in a way that exceeds the specified restrictions.

Common Types of Copyright Infringement on Shutterstock

Several common scenarios lead to copyright infringement on Shutterstock.

These include using images without a valid license, using images for unauthorised purposes, altering images without permission, or using images that include recognisable individuals without obtaining necessary releases.

Shutterstock’s Approach to Addressing Copyright Infringement

shutterstock copyright breach

Shutterstock takes several measures to combat copyright infringement on its platform.

As a service provider, they depend on notifications from rights holders to address copyright infringement issues.

They follow the requirements outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and have a DMCA Policy in place.

Shutterstock receives numerous content submissions from contributors on a weekly basis.

Since they don’t own the copyright or have exclusive licensing rights to the content, they can’t assume ownership or monitor all accounts for infringing material. This allows contributors the freedom to license their content elsewhere or jointly own copyright with others.

Shutterstock relies on infringement notifications to take action.

They trust their agreement with contributors and strive to be fair and reasonable to the community.

They don’t disable accounts or remove content without a specific basis.

They prioritise the importance of receiving notifications from rights holders or members of the Shutterstock community to address infringement cases effectively.

In essence, Shutterstock depends on copyright holders and community members to report an infringement, complies with the DMCA, and operates in a way that respects the rights of contributors while actively addressing infringement issues.

Tips for Reporting Copyright Infringement to Shutterstock

When it comes to reporting copyright infringement to Shutterstock, there are a few important steps to follow.

Firstly, you need to send an email to, including all the necessary information.

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It’s worth noting that Shutterstock takes each complaint seriously and thoroughly reviews them. However, they might not respond to claims that are improper or lacking specificity.

If you are the copyright owner, it is crucial to submit a DMCA notice for swift action.

Shutterstock also regularly monitors contributor accounts with repeated notices to ensure compliance.

Keep in mind that accounts involved in infringement may be disabled, but misusing the DMCA process can also lead to account suspension.

If you are not the original copyright owner, provide detailed information about the original works and the alleged infringing content, including Shutterstock content ID numbers.

Shutterstock conducts investigations based on specific examples to address the issue effectively.

Procedure for Making Copyright Infringement Claims: A Step-by-Step Guide

claims of copyright infringement

If you believe that your copyrighted work has been infringed upon and is accessible on the Shutterstock website, you can make claims of copyright infringement by following these steps:

Prepare a written communication that includes the following:

  • A paper or electronic signature from an authorised representative of the legitimate owner of the intellectual property that was allegedly infringed upon.
  • Identification of the copyrighted work that has been infringed upon or, if multiple works are involved, provide a representative list.
  • Clearly identify the material that is infringing or the subject of infringing activity, and provide enough information for Shutterstock to locate it.
  • Include your contact information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address if available.
  • State that you have a good faith belief that the use of the material is not authorised by the intellectual property owner, copyright agent, or the law.
  • Declare that the information provided is accurate, and acknowledge under penalty of perjury that you are authorised to act on behalf of the copyright owner.

Send the written notification to Shutterstock’s Designated Agent at this electronic mail address:

By following this procedure, you may file a report of copyright infringement at Shutterstock and provide the necessary information to initiate the review and potential removal of the infringing material.

Steps to Avoid Copyright Infringement on Shutterstock

To prevent copyright infringement when using Shutterstock, consider the following steps:

Conducting Thorough Research

Before using an image from Shutterstock, conduct comprehensive research to ensure it does not infringe on someone else’s copyright.

Check if the image has been used extensively elsewhere or if there are any known copyright claims associated with it.

Understanding Licensing Terms and Usage Restrictions

Carefully review the licensing terms and usage restrictions provided by Shutterstock for each image.

Ensure that your intended use aligns with the specified license type and restrictions. If in doubt, reach out to Shutterstock’s support team for clarification.

Seeking Permission and Obtaining Releases

If your usage involves identifiable individuals or properties, ensure you have the necessary model or property releases.

These releases grant legal permission for the use of such content, protecting you from potential infringement claims.

Credit the Source Appropriately

When using images from Shutterstock, make sure to provide proper attribution or credit to the original creator, as per the licensing requirements.

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This helps maintain transparency and respect for the creators’ work.

Keep Records and Documentation

Maintain a record of the licenses and permissions obtained for the images used from Shutterstock.

This documentation serves as evidence of your compliance with copyright laws and can be useful in case of any disputes or claims.

Regularly Review and Update Licenses

If you plan to use Shutterstock images over an extended period, periodically review your licenses to ensure they are still valid and relevant.

Renew licenses if necessary and remove any images that are no longer authorised for use.

Stay Informed About Copyright Laws

Keep yourself updated on copyright laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. Understand the rights of copyright owners and the limitations of fair use.

This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and avoid unintentional copyright infringement.

Educate Your Team and Collaborators

If you work with a team or collaborate with others, make sure they are aware of copyright laws and the importance of avoiding infringement.

Provide guidelines and resources to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities when using content from Shutterstock.

Use Caution with Derivative Works

If you plan to modify or create derivative works based on Shutterstock images, ensure that you have the necessary permissions and licenses for such usage.

Avoid exceeding the allowed modifications or usage restrictions specified in the licenses.

Regularly Review Shutterstock’s Policies

Stay updated on Shutterstock’s policies regarding copyright infringement and usage guidelines.

Familiarise yourself with the platform’s terms of service to ensure compliance and to understand the consequences of copyright infringement.

Are Shutterstock Images Copyrighted?

At Shutterstock, you’ll find amazing images that come at a cost. But here’s the best part: once you buy them, they become royalty-free!

This means you gain ownership and the freedom to use them in countless ways across different platforms.

Whether it’s for a print ad, a web banner, or your own website, the possibilities are endless.

Of course, there are a few guidelines to follow.

You can’t claim the content as your own, and it’s important to stick to the resolution limits set by Shutterstock.

Remember to respect the license agreements you agreed to. Don’t use the images in offensive ways or manipulate model photos dishonestly.

With Shutterstock’s royalty-free photos, you can unleash your creativity and make a visual impact without worrying about limitations.

Let your imagination soar and bring your projects to life with stunning visuals that captivate and engage your audience.

What’s Next?

Respecting copyright laws and avoiding infringement is crucial when using platforms like Shutterstock.

The platform provides a great opportunity for contributors to showcase their creative works and buyers to purchase licenses to use those works, but only if both parties comply with the legal requirements of copyright law.

By understanding the basics of copyright, reviewing licensing terms, and taking necessary precautions, both contributors and buyers can ensure they stay within legal boundaries and maintain a thriving creative ecosystem.

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One way to enhance this protection is by using Bytescare digital protection services. To learn more about how this service can safeguard your creative content, book a demo today.


What should I do if I unknowingly used a copyrighted image from Shutterstock?

If you accidentally used a copyrighted image without proper authorisation, remove it immediately from your project and seek legal advice if necessary.

Take steps to prevent similar occurrences in the future by thoroughly researching and obtaining the appropriate licenses.

How can I prevent copyright infringement when using Shutterstock images?

To prevent copyright infringement, carefully review and follow Shutterstock’s licensing terms and usage restrictions.

Conduct thorough research, and obtain necessary permissions from the owner of the image in question.

Are there any free alternatives to Shutterstock?

While Shutterstock offers premium licensed content, there are free alternatives available, such as Unsplash and Pixabay.

However, keep in mind that the licensing terms and quality of content may vary.

Can I use images from Shutterstock to sell?

Yes, you can sell products with Shutterstock images on them. The Enhanced License allows you to use the images on merchandise, whether it’s for sale or given away for free.

There are no limitations on the number of times you can use the image on your products.

From calendars and t-shirts to coffee mugs and posters, you can incorporate Shutterstock images into your designs and create unique merchandise.

Can we use Shutterstock images on my website?

Yes, you can use Shutterstock images on your website. Once you have purchased the images from Shutterstock, you have the right to use them on your website.

This allows you to enhance your web pages with visually appealing content and engage your visitors.

Whether you need images for your homepage, blog posts, or any other section of your website, Shutterstock provides a vast library of high-quality images for you to choose from.

Just make sure to comply with the licensing terms and conditions provided by Shutterstock to ensure proper usage of the images on your website.

Can I use images from Shutterstock without paying?

Shutterstock operates as an online stock photo agency that requires payment for downloading and using their images.

The images available on Shutterstock are not free and require a purchase of a royalty-free license to legally use them in your projects.

This ensures that the photographers and artists are compensated for their work and allows you to use the fantastic images in accordance with the terms and conditions of the license you acquire.