Creative Commons Vs. Stock

This article is the first one in a series of three written by James Leal-Valias, Creative Director of iStockphoto

Good imagery can make or break online content. Without a compelling visual to set the tone ansd entice the reader, the chances that someone will look at an article, blog post, website, banner ad or even a Facebook blurb are slim regardless of the quality of the verbiage.

Thanks to search engines like Google Images, finding relevant and entertaining photos or illustrations is extremely easy. But just because you can find it, cut it, copy it and paste doesn’t mean you have the legal (or ethical) right to use it without permission. The reality is that every image is copyrighted, whether or not the image is marked as such. And, contrary to popular misconception, the fact that just because someone decides to post an image online does not mean they’ve chosen to relinquish their copyright.

However, a growing number of artists do choose to make their work available to the public for private or commercial use. Creative Commons licenses provide simple, standardized alternatives to the traditional “all rights reserved” copyright.  With this type of license, the creator may choose variables relating to personal or commercial use and reproduction and whether or not develop and use derivative works.

For example, an artist may choose to make an image available for commercial or non-commercial use provided the image is not altered and he is given credit for the work. Or an artist may choose to make an image available to be tweaked, reworked and built upon provided the modified image is also made available under a Creative Commons license.

One of the best ways to find Creative Commons work is to use the Creative Commons search engine at For many applications, Creative Commons images are an excellent choice. But it is important to remember when using a Creative Commons image that, depending on the content of the image and where you plan to use it, copyright isn’t the only factor to consider. There are several intellectual property and privacy issues that need to be considered – particularly if the image is going to be used for commercial purposes.

For example, images that contain logos, trademarks, company names or even specific buildings, product designs or landmarks may not be used in commercial imagery. Also, if a recognizable person is in the image, that person needs to have given permission for their likeness to be used.

Stock imagery is created specifically for the purpose of being used by publishers, marketers and advertisers and a host of other customers for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. Companies such as iStockphoto carefully inspect every image they sell to ensure they meet extremely high quality standards. They also guarantee that their files do not violate any copyright, moral right, trademark and other intellectual property laws or guidelines.

Moreover, because these images are shot with re-use in mind, they often have uncluttered backgrounds, empty space where copy can be easily added and other attributes that make them well-suited for a wide range of tasks.

With a huge selection images, videos and audio clips, many of which can be purchased for as low as $1, it’s no wonder iStockphoto along with the other leading stock providers have become the de facto standard for those looking to achieve the perfect balance between quality, cost and usability.

About iStockphoto

iStockphoto is the web’s original source for royalty-free stock images, media and design elements. For over 10 years artists, designers and photographers from all over the world have come here to create, work and learn. Although iStockphoto started with just a few photos in 2000, we now offer vector illustrations, videos, music and sound effects, Flash and, coming soon, logos.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses