Images and Copyright – Do I “Public Domain”?

Addendum: Amended to include sources courtesy of Daily Post

How do you get people to come to your blog without promising free cake and then disappointing them a la Portal? You need a good headline for starters or people are not going to be enticed to read it. Most amusingly, that particular post proved my point about how important a good headline is (the post itself contained no details or tags to aid the SEO of the post) and the experiment came to an end quicker than expected.

It’s not all about the headline though. Knowing that the promise of cake is indeed a lie, they will usually be drawn here by attractive and preferably relevant images. This can sometimes present us with problems. If an image is on the web, unless otherwise stated it is not public domain. That means that the owner has the right to limit who can do what with it. If they request that you do not hotlink (as most of us do on WordPress), it is always good netiquette to respect that. Normally though, considering hotlinking will take them back to the original site and consequently increase their hit rate, most will not have a problem with this.

It isn’t just courtesy to state your source, it is also good legal practice. Without it, you are in theory claiming it as your own and the copyright owner would have the right (just as you do for your written work) to properly credit the work or remove it entirely.

You may prefer to save these issues by using your own images… but you are not always going to have a relevant image in your legal ownership. If I’m writing an article about zombies, I’m unlikely to have an image of a real life zombie or somebody dressed as a zombie to illustrate my point.

The other option then, is creative commons or public domain images. These are freely available images that you can do with as you please. The former requires that you link back to the source but you are otherwise able to use them for personal and even commercial purposes; for public domain, you are not required to do so but it may be good manners to at least demonstrate where you got the image. They are not always easy to find though – Google Image Search can locate them for you but it does mean making sure to set the correct level of usage right on the advanced search – it’s possible but there are more user-friendly features out there.

I’ve recently resumed work for a client who put my contract on hold a couple of months ago while they focussed on opening up a new part of their business. I’m now writing for this project for them and it is new to me; because they have practically nothing in the way of material they can get me started on, I have had to look for some generic images to use and I’ve found the following useful sites:

  • Morgue File allows you to search a wide variety of sources including istock and Getty and brings them up in its own database. You can search by subject, size and popularity
  • Wylio is a useful and simple image searcher. All you need is a Google account to access it and who doesn’t have one of those? It’s designed with bloggers in mind to quickly find citeable images for inclusion in your blog
  • I’ve also recently found photopin which allows users to search by most recent, relevance and “interestingness”. You can also set commercial or non-commercial. This one is glossy and user-friendly and searches the whole web for public domain images
  • Unsplash is a high-res collection of images of scenes, scapes and people that make useful image headers
  • The amusingly named Death to the Stock Photo is a service you must join but it is free and you must check the restrictions to see what the site’s creators will allow you to do
  • Life of Pix: A user-submitted resource full of wonderful hi-res images. You won’t get by if you are not using this or the following two resources
  • Pixabay: one of (if not the) largest collection of free stock images presently available on the web
  • Pexels: Not quite as large as Pixabay, and some of the images are the same, but you will find some differences. Always worth looking at both.
  • Stock Snap: Not much more to add, a small database with some similar to Pexels and Pixabay, but some that are different too
  • PicJumbo: Another free archive. Its content seems to be different from the previous three in this list so I include it here
  • And finally, a useful resource of other links for you to investigate

2 thoughts on “Images and Copyright – Do I “Public Domain”?

  1. Very informative, Matt. We will definitely be checking these sites out, as the two of us love using images in our blogs and posts. 😉

    1. Very welcome! Hope all is well with you ladies 🙂

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