How to find free images and other resources without copyright restrictions


Finding good illustrations and other resources is a challenge and the question always is: Am I allowed to use this resource? When you find a resource trough a search engine it may appear to be free of copyrights, but very often it isn’t. This post contains a short description on the rules of copyright and a list of websites with resources that you are allowed to use.

Rules for copyright

The save way is to ask the creator for permission to republish his work. If you use work without permission you might be infringing on the copyrights. There is a ‘fair use’ rule. You are allowed to quote or use small parts of the work with the proper attributes, without asking permission or infringing on the copyrights. But that is for non-commercial usage only. The moment you have a commercial goal, the fair use rule does not apply. Barbara Waxer added these instructions:

  • Attribution placement:
    • Preferred placement is with the content, but at the end is also acceptable. Just be sure to indicate clearly, such as in the example you list above: Figure X, Large and small tomato, by Friedrich Haag CC-BY-SA. You must also include links in that info to the image, author’s website (if different), and to the specific license at Creative Commons, respectively.
  • Including the name:
    • Attribution is always required for CC-licensed work, so never skip this one! Ever. Absent any other info that accompanies the content, it’s good to assume that however the author appears is how he or she wants to be listed.
  • Using media in an online course can get tricky. For example, remember that when CC-SA content, you must distribute what you create under that Share Alike license.

Folio created a really detailed infographic on these rules.  Clik the image to see the full infographic.

copyright

Creative common (CC) and GNU licenses

cc Creative Commons is an organization which supports free and open content. It enables a creator (of images, courses, music, videos) to get registered as the owner/creator of the resource but at the same time grants other people the right to use this resource. If you create something you can add a CC license (there are several options), allowing others to reuse your work (of course with proper attributes to you the creator). This also means that if you find CC licensed resources through a search engine, you know that you are allowed to use that. This blog is published under CC, as you can see in the side bar. A Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This license means you are allowed to use, reuse, change and share all the information in this blog, as long as you recognize me as the author. Another license is the GNU license, that is mostly used for software but also other resources like images and videos. Work under GNU license may be reused, shared and changed, so that is save as well. Before you use any image, audio, video or text file, make sure you are allowed to use it and always attribute the creator.

My list of websites with free images, sounds and videos

Foter Over 200 million images, all free
Stokpic Free stock photo’s
Brainy Betty A website with free resources images, sounds, backgrounds. Mostly focused on PowerPoint users but also usable for eLearning
Gratisography Awesome high resolution pictures
Death to the stock photo A service created by two photographers. You can signup for free and you will get a pack of free photos in your email every month. If you sign up for a premium account ($10 per month), you will get access to the full database.
All the free stock A website with links to other free stock photo and video websites.
RGB Stock Over a 100.000 free photo’s
Free images This is a search engine for free stock photos. All your searches will give paid results at the top, but if you scroll down you will find the free ones.
Morgue file A ton of free stock photos. Clear description if there are limitations on the usage.
Pic Jumbo Does contain free images, but also a lot of images that you have to pay for.
Stockvault Does contain free images, but also a lot of images that you have to pay for.
Xpert attribution A website with images, audio and video most of them under CC license. It has a nice feature to embed the attribute into the images.
Iso republic A limited amount of images but really nice ones.
Vector portal A website with free images (no photos)
Commons wikimedia The wiki of the CC organization with lots of free images, sounds and videos.
Pixabay Free photos. Some of them have watermarks of commercial stock photo websites. But there are plenty without that you can use for free
Getty images Free and paid images. it has an option to only search on free images. I found that that filter doesn’t always work.
Flickr You do need a Yahoo account for this one, but it offers the option to filter on creative common resources.
1001freefonts It is what is says, a 1001 free fonts for you to use
Pickup Image A huge collection of free high resolution pricures
splitshire Stock photo’s for personal and commercial use
stokpic Same here!
uhdwallpapers Wallpapers, photo’s and images
PliXS Photo’s and images

I got a lot of responses on this post. Some people are suggesting other websites for copyright free images and other resources. If you have suggestions, please add a comment with these websites or tweet me  @kasperspiro. I will add them to the list. A great tip from Margie Shiels: If you use Google (or Bing) for an images search, it is possible to filter your results by usage rights.

  1. Use the Images search in Google
  2. Click Search Tools above your results list
  3. You’ll see a Usage Rights drop down where you can select a number of variations (labeled for reuse, labeled for noncommercial reuse, etc.).

29 comments

  1. If you use Google for an images search, it is possible to filter your results by usage rights. Use the Images search in google, click Search Tools above your results list, and you’ll see a Usage Rights drop down where you can select a number of variations (labeled for reuse, labeled for noncommercial reuse, etc.). I double check restrictions when I find an image I like, but find this faster than running individual searches at different sites.

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    • (Feel free to reject this during moderation, as I didn’t want to call you out publicly, but I couldn’t find a way to message/email you privately about this…) Thanks for this timely article – with the demise of Microsoft’s media library, I’m looking for any and all free image sources, especially for clip art! However, one small reminder… Apostrophes should NEVER be used to pluralize a word. So you should remove the apostrophes in “video’s” and “photo’s” and other places in your article in which you’ve incorrectly used them to pluralize the words “video” and “photo.”

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  2. Hi,
    Thank you for the list of websites, very useful! Two questions:

    – If you use free images (that require attribution) in an online course, do you need to put the attribution details immediately under the image (in the same slide) or can you just list all attributions at the end of a course?

    – If I want to use an image that is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license (which states you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author), but the author does not provide any details regarding attribution, do I still need to include the author’s name? See https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2013_09_10_Tomate.jpg as an example.

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    • Great questions.
      1. Attribution placement: Preferred placement is with the content, but at the end is also acceptable. Just be sure to indicate clearly, such as in the example you list above: Figure X, Large and small tomato, by Friedrich Haag CC-BY-SA. You must also include links in that info to the image, author’s website (if different), and to the specific license at Creative Commons, respectively.
      2. Including the name: Attribution is always required for CC-licensed work, so never skip this one! Ever. Absent any other info that accompanies the content, it’s good to assume that however the author appears is how he or she wants to be listed.
      3. Using media in an online course can get tricky. For example, remember that when CC-SA content, you must distribute what you create under that Share Alike license.
      Good luck.
      Barbara http://www.barbarawaxer.com

      Like

  3. A friendly clarification of the title in this article, specifically “without copyright restrictions.” Creative Commons licensed-work is indeed still protected by copyright.

    The difference is that CC licenses build in a great deal more flexibility for use, from Attribution only (the most accommodating), to Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives (the most restrictive). Content that does have any copyright protection is known as being in the public domain.

    Creative Commons does allow a creator to designate their work with a CC0 dedication, which is the closest one can come to placing work in the public domain. That group is not covered in your article, though.

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