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Top 3 Places to Get Fair-Use Images

Did you know that at the immediate point of creation of a work in a “tangible medium”, legal protection applies through automatic copyright? Unless you post images generated on your own, or have obtained a license to use images owned by another party, you could be infringing upon a copyright. Sounds fantastic, right? This violation can be a simple mistake, but can lead to prosecution or hefty fines.

Nevertheless, it’s not always practical to purchase a professional camera for a pretty penny. And, conducting rigorous investigations to make sure an image you have chosen is deemed “fair for use” isn’t exactly time-friendly. So here’s to saving you time and money! Learn to become an image-sharing guru through tapping into these three practical resources for avoiding copyright infringement.

1. Public Domains and Photo-Sharing Websites (With Discretion)

Images from online photo banks, public domain images, right protected images, and royalty free images may be downloaded for use. However, website owners must understand the terms of use concerning these images. So, what’s the difference?

Online Image Repositories offer images for downloads or hotlinks. These photographs may be available on websites such as,, or under certain conditions. Many photo banks will require users to link back to the original source of the photograph.  Be sure to read all terms related to the use of these images which may include restrictions of commercial use, crediting, redistribution, or reselling.

Public Domain Images involve material that has been deemed “publicly available” and free for use. These images may be found on websites, for example, Stock.xchng,,, and more. Any images taken for government purposes or photographs found on government websites are also by default included in the public domain category.

Royalty Free Images may be purchased on websites for a specified fee. Once purchased, buyers may utilize the images as they wish.

Right Protected Images refer to photographs which may be purchased and used for reserved purposes at a certain period of time. Terms of this agreement must be arranged with the original owner of the image, which may also include a fee.

2. Advanced Image Search through Google

google images advanced search

This is my favorite! To filter out copyrighted images which are not up for use, simply conduct an advanced image search on Google Images. Go to and enter a specific set of keywords; hit the magnifying glass (or search button). This will return a normal (non-specific) image search results page. Then, click on the wheel at the right hand of the page. A drop-down should appear where you will then select “Advanced Search” (shown to the right). This will direct your browser to another page on which you will be able to choose exact specifications of a photo… including licensed or free-use categories.

Talk about easy! With Google Images even gaining the title of “the biggest image scraper of the millennium”, searching for photos through this platform offers great incentives: a massive variety and depth of images and photo searches suited to your needs. Give it a shot and see for yourself!

3. Creative Commons Licensed Images

If public domains, photo-sharing websites, or advanced-searched images just don’t do the trick for you, consider checking out creative commons licensed images. Under specified terms, this license allows users to share and utilize images which may have been protected by a copyright. Image-owners may acquire a creative commons license in order to adjust already established copyrights, and permit public-use of their material with determined terms. For example, an image-owner may implement a creative commons license on an image to be used only for non-commercial purposes.

Creative commons images may be found at, or on other photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. Other photo-hubs may offer images with creative commons licenses under sections titled “creative commons”. Just be sure to abide by the terms of use! And for those of you looking to pay it forward for other image-searchers, you may consider getting a creative commons license on your own work. This will create open sharing and free use of the images you own. How nice of you!

So, next time you are looking for the perfect picture to spice up your blog, do your research, and carefully select material that is up for fair use. You’re not a thief, so don’t steal other’s material. Want to really cover your bases? Understand which images may be considered owned, protected, or copyrighted versus images of fair use, and get the full low-down on assessing protected images at “4 Easiest Ways to Tell if an Image is Copyrighted“.

Have a different method for spotting fair-use images? Share with us below!

One comment

  1. Lauren,
    Nice post. A couple of days ago there was an announcement by the largest holder of images in the world, Getty Images, that their images are all fair use so long as they are not used for a commercial purpose. This is the same Getty Images that did a zillion letters wanting thousands of dollars from the unsuspecting. (And sometimes those who knew what they were doing was not right). Interesting about face for them.

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