Free Online Images... Copyright Issues, Part 1
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
An image is worth a thousand words, but if you use the wrong image, it can cost you thousands of dollars. In part one of this series find the best places to get free images for commercial use, copyright issues, and how to avoid copyright infringement.
True or False
If I download a free image, I can use it for any purpose. False
If I download an image that's free for commercial use, then I can use it for any purpose. False
If I use an image that I can't find the copyright for, then I can use it for any purpose and I won't be held liable? False
If I hire someone to design my website or marketing materials and they use a copyrighted image but didn't get a license to use it, then I can't be held liable? False, you're both liable.
Use Caution When You Use Images Free for Commercial Use
Many of the big stock image companies like Shutterstock, Dreamstime and iStock, use reverse search engine software to find images that are illegally used. These companies are going after individuals/businesses and this has become a great revenue stream for them.
Most sites with images that are free for commercial use have a disclaimer. “There is no reasonable way for us to monitor all of the user content that gets uploaded to our service.” Basically, what they're telling you is that it's your responsibility to ensure the images you're using are not subject to copyright issues.
Important Copyright Restrictions
You can't always trust the images that photographers upload, especially amateurs.
Many contributors are not aware that you need a model release or that you need a special permit or permission to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night to sell, post, print, or print on a product for resale.
Other copyright restrictions may apply to photos of buildings built after 1990, architecture, landmarks, national parks, historical sites, monuments, amusement parks, zoos and more. You can't use images that have a logo or trademark in it. For example: if you have a photo with an Apple computer with their emblem on it, you can't use it.
Links to a List of Copyrighted Restricted
What Can You do to Protect Yourself?
Use Reverse Search Engine Software
This tool is not a 100% guarantee, but it can help you find out if the image is copyrighted and requires you to purchase license in order to use the image, like Shutterstock
My favorite is Google Images, another one is TinEye.
Note: I recommend using both of them because they can pull up different results.
Free Images for Commercial Use
Freerange Stock is one of my favorite sites
Photos courtesy of and copyright Freerange Stock
Rating: 4.5 stars - 5 Stars: Trustworthy and verifiable source*
Licensing Notes: You cannot offer images for sale, or offer images as part of printed products.
Attribution: They appreciate a photo credit, but it is not required.
They have a great array of images of Arizona, as well as a wide range of other subject matter. I love that Freerange Stock takes some of their own pictures. *What's great is you can contact them to verify the source of the images or to ask if they have a model release on file. Contact support
There are over 100,000 images on the site, all free for commercial use. About 60% of their images are taken in-house or contributed by photographers that have been individually reviewed and approved. The other 40% of the images are licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons Licenses from other web sites, which we will talk about in part two.
Freerange Stock images are licensed and free for commercial use with very few restrictions under a license called Equalicense
Please note that while we try to provide accurate information we are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. If you have any legal questions ask an lawyer.
Thank you! Jody Liller, Liller Designworks LLC
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com
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