On Blogging Thu Blog Meet

Sites with public domain, copyright free or free to use images

Bison lying down, Wind Cave National Park, National Park Service (public domain)

Photographs and images jazz up a blog post but not everyone has the time or inclination to create each and every image or photograph for their post.  Although many people think you can use any image on the internet, that is not true.  Because most of us bloggers do not have an unlimited pocketbook to pay someone, knowing where to find public-domain, copyright-free or free-to-use images can save a lot of time, money and hassle.

Some sources don’t require that you attribute the source or creator.  Whether I am required to or not, I like to credit the source or creator.  Occasionally I do it in the caption under the image but more usually I will do credits at the bottom of the post.  If you think it is unnecessary to credit someone, think about how you might feel if you find someone had republished your paragraphs or whole post without crediting you or linking back to you.

Image sites with public-domain, copyright-free or free-to-use images

These are some sites that have mostly copyright-free, public-domain, or free-to-use images.  If the image is not copyright-free, they will usually say so. Generally speaking you don’t have to credit the photographer/image-creator for copyright-free or public-domain images but it is good manners to do so. Some images are neither copyright free or public domain but you are allowed to use them in accordance with Creative Commons license in the category(s) the creator(s) allows.  So the image is free to use within the parameters set by the Creative Commons license but the copyright still belongs to the creator.  On free-to-use images, depending on what Creative Commons license category it falls under, you may be required to attribute the photo. Even if you aren’t required, it is still good manners to do give credit.

Unsplash.com : professional photographs.  The photographers are offering the images free of charge.  Please credit the photographers.
Wikimedia Commons – sister site to Wikipedia.  Most of the images are free to use.  At the bottom of the page of an image, Wikimedia explicitly states which use is allowed according to the Creative Commons license section the image falls under.

If you click on the link “Use this file on the web”, you can copy the attribution text directly to put on your post as text or html.  Wikimedia has a “Summary” section listing: description, date, source and author.

Do read the license parameters the image is listed under and credit the image as specified. What is particularly great about Wikimedia is if the picture from another country is in public domain due to the law in the origin country, they will usually specify that. This is very useful as they source images from around the world.

True color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet. By ESA – European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA [CC BY-SA 3.0-igo (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0-igo)], via Wikimedia Commons
United States National Archives – photographs taken under the government’s aegis like the WPA project is in the public domain for United States citizens because we the taxpayers have paid for them.

However some agencies like the FSA or OWI occasionally obtained photographs from other sources.  In those cases, the copyright still belongs to the original source and not the government — so those would not be in the public domain.

The record should show if the copyright does not belong to the government.

“Union men picketing Macy’s”, 1934 FSA photo by Dorothea Lange. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, National Archives. (public domain)
United States National Parks – same deal as National Archives, public domain because taxpayers paid for them unless obtained from other sources.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room.  Not every image is copyright free but the information listed on the image will say whether it is in the public domain or “No known restrictions on publication.  No copyright renewal in Copyright office”.  The latter is important because copyrights expire unless they are renewed.  The LOC also in their records shows the copyright holder if there is one and the contact information if known.
Pixabay — Pixabay is copyright free and folks who sign up agree to that.  You can also give a “coffee” donation to the photographers if you want to.

However there are some Pixabay accounts which take advantage of public-domain, copyright-free or free-to-use pictures by reposting images created by other people — I’ve seen an account or two repost images I’ve seen on Unsplash  and the Pixabay account was not the original photographer.  One way to judge whether a Pixabay account is putting up their own photographs is look at the number of photos the person has posted, if it’s in the thousands, it’s probably not all taken by them.  Also look for consistency in the types of photographs posted.  Generally people have  a certain style or are drawn to specific subject matter again and again.

I have come across a complaint that when the artist quit Pixabay, Pixabay kept the account open allowing the images to continue to be downloaded — in that account, if there are coffee donations, the original image creator is not getting the donation as they have quit Pixabay.   Because of the initial copyright-free agreement, Pixabay can keep the images up and the original owner is also free to submit the images anywhere they like.  The image had become public domain so both could do what they liked with the image. Some people write they are happy with Pixabay — they like to share and don’t expect much in the way of money.  The donation-to-download ratio is very low.


Works created in the United States before 1923 are public domain and other general USA copyright rules

Public domain, published before 1923. “Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere” by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874.

This information is about the United States public domain and copyright rules.  Other countries, of course, have different laws.  The law an image falls under is based on the country where the original image was published. These next bits are from the United States LOC site:

The copyright law explicity says all works before 1923 are in the public domain.  The countdown of the current year minus 95 years for public domain will recommence in 2018.

Works with a copyright notice or copyright registration published between 1964-1977 are copyrighted for 95 years. Whether copyright exists for works between 1924-1963 depends on if they put in for copyright renewal.

1978 and thereafter is creator’s lifetime plus 70 years plus renewals with or without the copyright notice.

Works already in the public domain cannot be copyrighted.

The government made this handy-dandy brochure on Copyright basics. Another government brochure delineates some of the copyright extensions for works created before 1978: Extension of copyright terms.

Something good to know for recipes and indexes:  Listings of ingredients or contents is not protected by copyright.  However, the description of cooking steps can be copyrighted — 1T Sugar is not copyrightable but “carefully stir in 1T sugar with a delicate touch” is probably copyrighted.

Work for hire is different.  The work does not belong to the creator but to the employer. Also copyright can be transferred but the creator can get the copyright back after 35 years as long as the correct paperwork is filed within the times specified on the paperwork and regulations.  So if you need to find the correct copyright holder, it can get tricky.




Note: much of this I have previously published on 10/5/18 in the blogging group notes.  Redid the post to make it more focused and clarify some information as this Thursday, newer members needed some good sites for images.



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