Influencer industry experts say 'usage rights' are a key part of brand deals that can lead to much higher earnings if negotiated well

Amanda Schreyer

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Industry insiders say one of the most important things
influencers should look out for when signing a contract with a
brand are “usage rights.” 

What are usage rights? Simply stated: It refers to the ways
brands are able to repurpose an influencer’s image or video across
a brand’s own social-media accounts or marketing materials.

For instance, a brand could request the right to include an
influencer’s picture of themselves wearing a product in the brand’s
marketing emails to customers for 90 days. A brand could also
request to re-share an influencer’s Instagram Story on its own

In influencer marketing, the influencer owns the rights to their
content and the brand has to be granted, or purchase, those

“In traditional media, if someone acts as a talent in a video or
a television commercial, that person doesn’t own the commercial,
the advertiser owns the commercial,” said Amanda Schreyer, a media,
marketing, and technology lawyer and counsel at Morse, a law firm
based out of Waltham, MA. “But in influencer marketing, it’s the
other way around.”

Schreyer has worked with content creators for nearly a decade,
assisting in negotiations and contract reviews, as well as working
closely with marketers and brands. She said brands have sought more
access and control as the industry has developed, which is why
usage rights have popped up in contracts more frequently.

In influencer-brand contracts, usage rights can often be found
under sections titled “Usage Rights,” “Licensing,” or

Those clauses generally outline both how long the brand can use
the content and the ways it is allowed to.

“Sometimes that’s two weeks, other times there is a default of
90 days or a year,” Schreyer said of the amount of time. The longer
and more elaborate the usage, the higher the price tag for those

Veronica Bonilla, a content creator on Instagram with around
50,000 followers, said a brand requested usage rights to her images
for three years as part of a recent campaign and her management
negotiated payment of over $20,000. The added usage rights for
three years tripled her base rate for this partnership, she

But granting usage rights for long time periods can sometimes
become a conflict for creators, said Beca Alexander, the president
and founder of Socialyte, an influencer management company.

For instance, if an influencer shared content about a brand one
month, but the usage rights last three months, a brand could
continue posting the influencer’s content on its social-media
accounts or as a paid advertisement. Another brand the influencer
wants to work with could see this as an obstacle to doing a

“What we would do, if that influencer is relatively mid- to
higher-tier caliber, is basically charge a brand the value of that
piece of content for three months,” Alexander said.

Beyond the time period, the manner in which a brand can use the
content is also often a part of usage rights negotiations.

The most common way brands seek to re-use content is by
re-posting the influencer’s content on the brand’s social media
page — whether that’s re-sharing an Instagram Story or re-posting
the content on the brand’s feed. That’s often referred to as
“organic” usage rights, Schreyer said.

Monica Morton, an influencer manager at the firm Gleam Futures,
said this type of usage doesn’t usually come with a higher fee. She
added that her clients usually allow this usage as long as it
occurs within a short time frame of the influencer’s original post
and the brand tags the creator.

But sometimes the brand wants more elaborate usage rights, like
the ability to re-use the influencer’s content in its
advertisements and paid marketing, such as a boosted post on
Instagram or Facebook or in a brand email to customers.

“Not every influencer likes that,” Schreyer said. “Because they
no longer have control over their content, they don’t know who is
going to see it.” This type of usage may then require a higher fee
or limited usage terms, she said.

Other extended usage scenarios that Schreyer described included
video content being used in television advertisements (such as a
clip from a YouTube sponsored video) or if a brand uses an
influencer’s content for a third-party vendor, such as Sephora.

Usage rights are not always clear

Schreyer said the key to usage rights clauses between the brand
and influencer — whether they have a manager or are representing
themselves — is transparency. Any brand deal negotiation should
discuss rates and fees and what’s included in those prices. 

“When usage becomes broader, more money is asked for,” Schreyer
said. “It’s important for both sides to understand what is expected
of them for that fee.”

If an influencer isn’t careful, however, they can sometimes
agree to usage rights without realizing it.

Alexander, of Socialtye, said one of her clients attended a
brand-hosted event and, after taking pictures in a photo booth, saw
those images plastered on a huge billboard.

Socialyte explored taking legal action against the brand, since
the influencer thought she had not agreed to this usage. But
Socialyte found out that at the event, the brand had included a
button in the photo booth granting rights to any images taken.

To read more about the influencer industry, check out
these Business Insider stories:

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Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News
Influencer industry experts say 'usage rights' are a key
part of brand deals that can lead to much higher earnings if
negotiated well