March 17, 2023

Using Creative Commons Photos Without Breaking the Law

By Morkven

As the world becomes increasingly digital, the need for quality images for use in presentations, websites, and social media channels has risen. Unfortunately, for many people, finding appropriate images that are free to use can be a significant challenge.

When seeking images on the internet, most people tend to rely on search engines like Google to look for pictures. This is a good start; however, it doesn’t mean that the collected images are free to use as wished. In most cases, images carry a copyright license, and while some are free to use, others aren’t. To avoid using copyrighted images accidentally and avoid breaking the law, it’s essential to consider using Creative Commons photos instead.

Creative Commons photos are images that comprise a license that allows the creator to share their work with specific permissions, which are predefined to determine how they may be used, shared, repurposed and modified. This license offers a middle ground between traditional copyright and public domain, providing creators control over how their work is used, while simultaneously enabling more reuse possibilities than restrictive copyright licenses. With a Creative Commons license, it is possible to share, reuse, and modify images while remaining within the law.

The following are several ways to use Creative Commons photos without breaking the law:

1. Identify the Creative Commons license type

Creative Commons images come in various licenses, including the “Attribution” license, “Attribution-ShareAlike,” “Attribution-NoDerivs,” “Attribution-NonCommercial,” and “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike” license. These licenses create specific guidelines regarding how the images are used, copied or distributed, so be sure to check the license type before using the image.

The most flexible of the five licenses is the “Attribution” license, which allows the licensee to use, distribute and modify an image in any way except for commercial purposes, as long as they attribute the author of the original work. In contrast, “Attribution-ShareAlike” permits the use of an image in any way, including commercial use, provided the user shares it under the same conditions as the original image.

2. Use an image search engine

Using an image search engine like Pixabay and Pexels simplifies the time and process of finding images with a Creative Commons license. Such platforms offer a range of royalty-free images that are free to use for various purposes. However, as with any resource, it’s important always to credit the original author of an image and to ensure that its license allows you to use it according to your intended use case.

3. Check their commercial use guidelines

While some Creative Commons licenses discourage the use of an image for commercial purposes, others permit it. Before using an image, users must read the conditions of the license to determine if using it for commercial purposes is permitted. If commercial use is not allowed, users should either look for other images with more relaxed licenses or pay for ones that can be used in commercial work.

4. Attribute the original creator

Regardless of the license type or the source that the Creative Commons photo comes from, it’s important to attribute the original creator. This act acknowledges the work of the creator and ensures that they receive credit for the hard work they’ve put into creating the image. Additionally, it builds trust among the community and assures other creators to permit their work to be used under a Creative Commons license.

5. Modify images creatively

Modifying an image creatively creates transformative works that can be used under the Fair Use Doctrine. Modifying an image’s colour, cropping and adding new elements can significantly improve an image’s value in presentations, social media images, ads, brochures and other media, allowing it to become more relevant and consistent with the brand.

In conclusion, using Creative Commons photos for your creative work is a smart decision both legally and ethically. It provides access to quality images, while simultaneously respecting the rights of the creators behind them. Additionally, it eliminates the high costs of hiring photographers or purchasing stock photos, allowing businesses and individuals to have a more cost-effective approach to their creative projects. By following the guidelines stated above, users can use such photos responsibly and without breaking the law.