What are copyright or public domain photos? What is Creative Commons licensing? How to find free license images and graphics? Read and find out!

Are you posting articles on your website or blog posts on your blog? You may need new photos or graphics to accompany those articles or blog posts. If you have shot a photo or you work for a news agency you can use something from the staff photographer. However, if you don’t have options, you need to find another solution. Before you do anything you should know that it is not okay to download and use photos off the internet and post them on your website or blog. There are a lot of people who do these things and such bad habits have become common among agencies and media organizations.

If you use an image that is not yours and you don’t have a permission, that is called copyright infringement. This is not only wrong but the creator of the photo could also pursue a legal action. For bare-bones and independent writer or blogger, there are lots of websites offering free license images or public domain images, graphics, and clip art. A great site is BURST, Shopify’s free images platform, there you can get access to free photos and other content, just click on burst.shopify.com/free-images 

Now, it is time for you to understand the basics of how photos are licensed online.

Let’s see what is copyright vs public domain:

In the EU and the USA, as soon as an artist or photographer makes an image, this person owns the copyright (unless the photographer decides to sell his rights to another person or organization). If you want to use these photos, you need to contact the person or organization for a permission to use use the photograph. Only they can allow you to use their creative work. A public domain photo is no longer under copyright protection and may be used without a permission. The photos you see on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Snapchat are not public domain. These photos are still covered by the creator’s copyright. This is a considered as a “fair use” right and it is an image or a video clip which can be used if that image or video is the actual news story.

What is Creative Commons licensing?

There are many content creators who are interested in sharing their work and they use licenses which are defined by the nonprofit organizations known as Creative Commons which offer creators and photographers a simple way to preserve copyright while allowing their work to be used for free and under certain conditions.

When searching for free licensed photos, the easiest way to search for photos is to use Google Images. Within Google Images you should limit your funds to work with high-priced usage rights. After looking for your keyword, you should look beneath the search bar and click on “tool”, then “Usage rights” and then select “labeled for reuse” or you can also choose one of the other options you like. Once you will choose a photo, you can click “Visit Page”.

The photos that will appear will be generally free to use and may require attribution. Most photos will appear from Wikimedia which is a source that hosts most photos available on Wikipedia and has millions and millions of files. The licensing details should be explained below each photo. If you are in doubt, we recommend you, not to use the photo.

Some of the best public domain image sources are Pixabay, Wikimedia, Unsplash, Libreshot.com, the New York Public Library, and British Library. Wikimedia can offer you the longest list of public domain photo resources.