Copyright-free photos for my blogger friends

This is another #hyperlib blog post from here.

If you just want instructions and links for finding photos you can use for your class blog, skip down to the end. If you want to hear me discuss copyright, creative commons, and fair use, just read on…

Perhaps it’s a consequence of having taken the copyright seminar last year, but I’m more aware of copyright laws when it comes to blogging. While most small-time bloggers aren’t really at risk if they grab a picture from Flickr, Google Image Search, or one of those photos with the huge copyright stamp across the front from image warehouses such as Shutterstock without paying for it or asking permission. There are other copyright concerns with blogging, but I suspect we’re all most interested in finding images we can use without fear of getting sued.

It’s a rampant problem, and unfortunately many media companies are trying really hard to shut down the Internet thanks to pirates. Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic by saying it’ll shut down the internet. Maybe it’s better described as “severely crippling the free flow of information.” Or in other words, shut down the Internet. Remember SOPA and PIPA? Recently, news came out about TPP, which also wants to shut down the Internet. (Well, how else would you describe it when it threatens the existence of lolcats?)

We don’t need to encourage these Internet shutter-downers any further. So, to avoid that, I highly suggest being aware about copyright laws, creative commons, and copyright-free sources of images.

Firstly, there are copyright laws related to education. So, while we’re in class, we have a little more latitude to use copyrighted materials. The Baruch Copyright Metro will help you determine whether you can use certain media in your classes. Keep in mind, though, that because this is not a secured educational site (it’s not D2L, Angel, Blackboard, etc), there are a little more restrictions, and you’ll have to follow the “Online” arrows.

Secondly, learn about various Creative Commons licenses. Just because something has a Creative Commons tag doesn’t mean that it’s automatically free for use. There may be certain criteria that you’ll have to meet before you can use a picture. Because the website you’re blogging on has no ads, this frees up quite a bit more images for use. A lot of people don’t want their images to be used in a commercial manner. I don’t blame them. If you ever blog on a site that does have ads, such as the Huffington Post, you’ll have to be aware of that.

Finally, here’s the important part. How can you find images that you can use on your #hyperlib blogs?

Check out morgueFile. It’s full of images you’re free to use…even if the blog is commercial. Just follow the citation directions. I’ve found it works best if you’re looking for the more generic terms. Things like “snow,” or “sunset” or “children” work very well. You won’t find pictures of apple turnovers, but there are illustrations for breakfast. Also, be careful. I accidentally searched for images under Dreamtime, which is their paid resource that’s full of even more photos. Unless you want to purchase a file, which seems fairly cheap, stick with just the morgueFile database.

The other two resources for images you might be free to use are Google Image Search and Flickr (or some other image sharing website). First, with Google, head on over to the Advanced Search page. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the form to where it says ‘usage rights.’ It will ask you what kind of licenses you’re looking for, whether it’s free for use, usable commercially, or something you can modify. Keep in mind that this search isn’t perfect, and you should double-check to make sure that it really is available under your terms. It’s still really useful.

The other site I’m most familiar with is Flickr. There are other photo-sharing sites that have advance search options that allow you to search based on license type, but I’ll stick with Flickr for now. On their advanced search page, like Google, it lets you search for specific licenses.

And remember, if you see the absolute most perfect image ever, you can always simply ask the copyright owner if you can use it. They may be honored that you like the photo so much, and let you use it for free. Just make sure you indicate something along the lines of, “Used with permission from ___” when you post it on your blog.

Happy blogging!

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