Let’s Discuss: Alamy Personal Usage Licenses “Misuse”

Upon close inspection, I have noticed that for some time many of my images on Alamy have been purchased as “Personal Use Only Licenses” (PU) for as little as under $20 gross.

A sale is a happy occurrence, especially during these more challenging times. However, the circumstances in which some of sales were carried out are highly suspicious, as I’ll explain in yet another controversial blog post.

What are “Personal Use Only Licenses”

What better source than Alamy itself. They’ve helpfully published a blog post on the subject, entitled “Personal Use – What Does it Mean?”. Taking the more meaty parts of this FAQ:

So, what is a personal use license?

The official license terms state it is for personal prints, cards and gifts. Non-commercial use only, not for resale.

This means you can use it in your home, or for a one-off card or gift e.g. a personalised greetings card, print, mug or canvas. If your intended use falls into any of these options, then a personal use license will cover you.

When is a personal use license not enough?

If you want to use an image commercially – this means using an image for anything that is going to make you money, like in a book, on a poster or on your website.


Further elaboration from Alamy: “Personal use licenses cover things like a personal print, a gift, a personal report, artist reference etc”

Ok, that’s pretty straightforward. Most likely just a print for your home or a calendar/mug image to give to friends/family at Xmas. Such descriptions are in line with the “report card” I receive from Alamy whenever there is sale (more detailed in the case of RM).

PU Licenses are some of the cheapest around

The fact that the usage is so restricted means that they’re one of the cheapest licenses around at between $10-20 gross. So far so good…

Just how many PU License sales?

Now that we’ve established their most likely use, I’ll show you some practical examples of some of my PU licenses.

Since I joined Alamy in Oct 2015, I’ve had a total of 144 sales. Of those, 9 (6%) have been PU licenses. Highest earned $19.99 gross and lowest $10.71 gross, which falls broadly in line with others’ experiences from reading on the Alamy forum.

Practical & Interactive Examples of possible “misuse”…

I’m going to leave this as an open discussion and I may go back later to edit my thoughts depending on how it goes.

Using your reasoning skills, you tell me which ones you believe:

1) Are almost certainly being misused (hell no it’s for PU); or

2) Which ones are borderline (perhaps an eccentric buyer would use it for PU) ; and

3) Which ones a “reasonable person” would use for personal / home use.

I’ll number them for easier references on the caption. These are screenshots so no point clicking on “enlarge”.

PU license
Spotted this PU license by used by this business on this website

PU Refunds – wtf?

Adding even more suspicion to the tale are some cases of PU licenses being refunded. Imagine someone purchases one of the above for cheap, let’s say $15….to make a print and then refunds it…why?! It’s already fking cheap and you’re complaining about it for a stupid image on a mug?

I’ve heard some horror stories on the Alamy forum – one such thread discussion here.

Can you opt out?

Alamy Customer Service Team has offered some information on opting out:

“Hi Alex, after giving this a read we just wanted to clarify a point where you have said you can’t opt out of PU sales. You actually can restrict all your images for personal use in the Alamy image manager so they aren’t available for this license type.”

Have I contacted Alamy about this issue?

Hell yes and patiently waiting to hear back as they supposedly carry out a thorough investigation. Now, I love Alamy but this issue has gone on for far too long.

Update: Image number 5 of the young man holding a selfie stick in Venice is supposedly free from misuse, since according to Alamy:

“Hi Alex

We’ve had a look and it seems the person who bought the image for personal use is the person depicted in the image so we wouldn’t see this as suspicious.

Personal use licenses cover things like a personal print, a gift, a personal report, artist reference etc.”

Now, that settles the issue, right? LOL. I’m proud of my keywording since a buyer was able to find himself among the 100+ million images!

Now, I’m looking to contact this buyer to see if he can track down my long-lost high school sweetheart, as well as investigate who murdered JFK and whether Tupac and Elvis are still alive!

What if you have suspicions?

If you also have suspicions, I would suggest to also get in touch with their excellent support team via email: contributors@alamy.com

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


  1. I think Alamy has gone down quite significantly in terms of sales and their system. Yes they may offer higher returns for images, but their payment system is terrible. I sold an image for $5 two months ago, and I still have not received my part for this quite measly amount. What is even more terrible is when buyers make a refund and you never know if they actually used the image or not. Their system definitely needs to be fixed.


  2. Of course you can opt out.
    Contact them and ask for a global restriction on your port.
    Unfortunately the next option will then be used, which is still cheap and open to abuse.
    On my own website I offer low res, low price downloads for the web etc, not full size downloads as Alamy do.

    Liked by 1 person

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