6 tips for using free images

Some time ago we listed 100 free photography sites in the Fast Media Directory. These sites range from organisations like Nasa, to creative communities and aggregators. When you’re interested in using free photography here are a few tips by Stockphotorights. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  1. Is it possible to get free images, legally?
    • Yes. There are sources of free, legal images.
  2.  Does that mean these free images have no copyright?
    • No. Copyright is automatically granted to the creator of any image. That copyright holder must specifically declare the image as free to use.
  3. Is it possible to get legal protection from suppliers of free, legal images?
    • Not usually. Free images typically do not come with any form of legal protection. Most free images will not have model releases or property releases and if a claim arises, the customer will be responsible for that claim.
  4. Are there any downsides to using free images?
    • The quality of these images can be lower than paid-for images. The better quality free images can also be over-used, and their effectiveness may be diluted the more times you see an image appearing in different places. Suppliers of free images are also unlikely to have inspection processes in place, which in turn can increase the likelihood of a dispute arising.
  5. What is a Creative Commons license?
    • Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses. These licenses allow creators of content (which includes imagery) to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. Restrictions include whether an image can be used for personal or commercial purposes, and whether or not the photographer requires attribution or credit.
  6. Do Creative Commons licenses cover you against all legal risk?
    • No. A Creative Commons license will still have certain restrictions on how the image can be used and does not automatically confirm that necessary model releases or property releases have been obtained so you could still be liable in the case of a dispute. The Creative Commons license does not include legal protection, so if a dispute arises about an individual, building, trademark or artistic work in that image, the customer may be liable for that claim.

For a list of free 100 free image sites you can visit Fast Media Directory. (This site is currently in redevelopment so do come back when the new look is launched).

Supported by Stockphotorights:

Licensing stock images can be a complicated business. Whether you need an image for an advertising campaign, a company presentation or for your personal blog, you should know the legal ins and outs before you agree to license it. Stockphotorights.com is a helpful resource for information on image licensing. It aims to unravel the complexities, expose the pitfalls and provide image buyers with the knowledge they need to license an image with confidence. This site is not, however, a substitute for advice from your own legal counsel.

Stockphotorights.com has been set up by Getty Images for the benefit of the photographic industry and its customers, with the support of BAPLA (British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies) and PACA (Picture Archive Council of America).

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

2 thoughts on “6 tips for using free images

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  • August 4, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Seems like you guys have a lot of info on copyright and licensing matters. Have you seen http://stockphotolicense.com/ which deals more in depth with these issues and provides you people to speak with to avoid the pitfalls of using images you just find online? We have found it to be very useful.

    Very useful info and things to keep in mind when licensing stock. There is more really useful information on http://stockphotolicense.com/ regarding how you can use an image you find online and also attempts to answer some basic copyright questions. If you want to use a free image, royalty free or rights managed image you should also check out Stock Photo License to get more info on stock licensing and copyright matters.


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