I love rainy Sunday afternoons for reading, and for catching up on news and social media. While I was on Facebook yesterday, “liking” Homecoming pictures and “unfollowing” friends (for now) who have suddenly turned into rabid political commentators, something from a friend’s newsfeed caught my eye. My friend had commented on something originally shared by a blogger who mentioned copyright (one of my favorite topics!), and who was expressing her sadness at feeling that she had no choice but to shut down her inspirational blog because of what she had learned from reading BlogHer author Roni Loren’s post entitled “Blogger Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Photos You Don’t Own on Your Blog.” Loren, and the blogger who shared the post, were not alone in their misunderstanding of usage rights and copyright for digital images. They, like many bloggers, thought that by putting a disclaimer on their sites that they were not the original creator of the photos they were using, and that they would take the photos down if asked, that they were free to use what they wanted. After all, the reasoning goes, if someone puts something on the internet, isn’t that like saying they want people to use and share it? Many of the commenters on the above-linked blog post thought so, as do many of the students I work with every day. As Loren found out the hard way, that is not the case.
While the conversation sparked by this situation could go a number of different directions in relation to copyright, access to information, responsibilities of creators and consumers, etc., etc., what I want to address in this post is that there are some very easy, totally legal ways to search for pictures you can use for your blog or for other projects.
Another search begun at the Creative Commons site yielded some results that were Public Domain (which means they do not require attribution at all), some results that had Creative Commons licenses, and some results that were available for purchase. All results were clearly labeled and it was easy to understand what was available to use freely.
The picture above, from Pixabay, is a picture that is in the Public Domain, and Pixabay clearly designates that it is Free for Commercial Use and that No Attribution is necessary.
My personal go-to image search, whether starting at the Creative Commons access point, or at Google itself, is Google Images. From the Google home screen or search bar, you simply type in your search term, click on “Search Tools” in the menu bar directly below the search box, and then click on “Usage Rights” to specify what license type you are looking for. The choices are plain language, and the results are reliably consistent. While it is my responsibility to verify that the images I use from the search results are in fact licensed for re-use, I find that Google Images reliable search results mean that I am less frustrated because I find images that truly are available for use.
My personal don’t-go-there search engine for this type of search is Bing. After a quick “maybe it got better” search this morning, I would recommend you avoid it altogether. While Bing looks like it has similar options to the other search engines, the results are unreliable. The screen shot below (a composite of thumbnails returned by Bing, and which I am using for the purpose of review) represents search results for which I had set the license filter to “Free to share and use.” When I clicked on each picture to verify its origin and licensing, they were mostly photos under copyright that were not at all free to share and use. Skip this search engine for this purpose.
I hope that this information will lead you to swift searching, responsible sharing, and to beautiful content that you can use. I hope that the blogger who was considering shutting down is able to find images to keep her blog going–and that her readers might also consider becoming contributors of content for her page, with CC licenses of their choosing for their work!