By Jason Terry, talking about free images you can use commercially under Creative Commons CC0 licensing.
Let me start out by saying that this story is about copyright law. And your first instinct might be to move on. But what I am about to tell you could save you a lot of headache and expense.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen an increase in the number of lawsuits or legal nasty-grams that companies have gotten for using an image on their website or blog without permission. Sometimes, taking the image down is all that is required to make the problem go away. Other times, it can costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars to settle the issue.
When someone takes a photograph or creates original imagery on their computer, they have copyright protection for their work. And that’s a good thing. Often, they will upload their original work to “free” image sites like Wikimedia Commons for you to use. But it’s only free if you include the correct attribution link.
If you didn’t know, attribution is a web link back to the photographer or artist that created the image you would like to use. If you forget to include the attribution link, the creator can sue you for copyright infringement. Most people wouldn’t do this, especially if they were making their work available to you on Wikimedia Commons in the first place. But there are Copyright Trolls out there making a living doing this very thing.
When you go to the home page of Wikimedia Commons, you will see the text, “a collection of 41,141,913 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.” But you’ve got to read the fine print. The images have complicated rules on how you can use them, where you can use them (print, websites, etc.) and how often.
A big part of the problem is that the current copyright laws are complicated.
Here’s an excerpt from the Creative Commons FAQ:
A person using CC0 (called the “affirmer” in the legal code) dedicates a work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her copyright and neighboring and related rights, if any, in a work, to the fullest extent permitted by law. If the waiver isn’t effective for any reason, then CC0 acts as a license from the affirmer granting the public an unconditional, irrevocable, non exclusive, royalty free license to use the work for any purpose.
So basically, if you find an image on a website that uses Creative Commons CC0 licensing, you can do whatever you want with it. And you don’t have to worry about some crazy legal issue down the road for using the image.
I wanted to give you 5 sites to consider. If you find an image you want to use, make sure it’s covered by CC0 licensing. Many of these websites use ads to pay for their hosting expenses. Often the ads are for iStockPhoto or other paid image sites. So you need to pay attention as you are clicking around.
Let me know what you think! Was this totally boring? Was it super helpful? Have you had a situation where an image you used from a website became a problem? My hope is that you learned something.
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