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Finding and Using Images Online


There are lots of tools to help you find images that you can freely reuse both in your blog posts and in the webpages you create for this class. This page provides some information about the different kinds of images you can find online, along with some recommended search tools. By using these tools and understanding how they work, you will also be able to provide complete, accurate Image Information for the images that you use.


Images and Reuse


The rules regarding reuse of images can be complicated, and many images that you find online are not labeled clearly, either because the original creator of the image did not make the reuse conditions clear or because the image was reused by someone who did not provide information that would lead you back to their source. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:


Public Domain: Just as there are many books which are in the public domain (usually because they were published before 1924, although this is not an absolute rule; details here), there are also many illustrations and other works of art that are in the public domain also. Public domain images are free for you to reuse without restriction, and that includes the illustrations printed in public domain books. 


Creative-Commons Licensing: "Creative Commons" is an alternative to copyright that allows the creators of the content to define specific conditions for reuse. You can learn more about Creative Commons options here, and below you will find some recommendations about how to search for Creative-Common-licensed images. 


Copyright: Many images that you will find online are copyrighted. As a general rule, you should assume that you CANNOT use copyrighted images unless you obtain permission from the copyright owner. One way you can see that an image is copyrighted is if there is a copyright "watermark" on the image. Watermarked images have been marked in that way so that you will have no doubt about it: the image is NOT available for free reuse.


Below is an example of a watermarked image; the watermark tells you the name of the stock photo service - Fotolia - so that you will know who owns the image; Fotolia images are not free to reuse:



The problem, of course, is that when someone does pay the licensing fee and puts up the un-watermarked image at their website, you see the un-watermarked image and do not know that a licensing fee is required. 


A note about royalty-free images. As you search for images that are licensed for reuse, watch out for the term "royalty-free." Royalty-free means you pay a one-time licensing fee but without any additional fees ("royalties") that are based on the volume of reuse. Royalty-free images are very useful for professional web designers, but they are NOT free; you have to pay an up-front licensing fee before you can legally use the image. You can find out more about royalties and image licensing fees at this helpful FAQ page: Stock Photos Online


Choosing and Using an Image


As a general rule, the best solution is to use a public domain or Creative-Commons-licensed image. Check out the links below for easy ways to search for CC-licensed and public domain images. It does not take any more time to limit your search in this way, and I think you will be amazed at the abundance of images online that are free to reuse.


If you do find an image for which the licensing terms are not certain, it is very important that you research the image in order to learn what you can about its copyright status and also to gather the information you will need to cite the image correctly. You can use Google's reverse-image search to find out more about an image. The reverse image search is also very useful in finding out bibliographical information for an image, such as the name of the artist who painted a painting, for example.


Searching for Public Domain and CC-Licensed Images


Here are three basic strategies you can use to focus your image search on public domain and CC-licensed images:


  • Limited Google Image Search. You can limit your Google Image search to public domain and CC-licensed images. Just do a regular Google image search and then from the Search Tools options look at the "Usage Rights" dropdown and choose "Labeled for Reuse" as a filter.




  • Flickr. Another fantastic resource for CC-licensed images is Flickr. Not all images at Flickr are CC-licensed but many of them are. You can configure the advanced search options to find CC-licensed images as shown below. 



  • Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. In addition to being a great source for basic background information about any topic, Wikipedia and its related Wikimedia Commons website can be a good source for images, too. So, depending on your topic, you may be able to consult Wikipedia to find the images you need. When you click on an image in a Wikipedia article, you will be taken to a specific page dedicated that image which will have the information you need to cite the image correctly. You can also use this handy Creative Commons Search Engine to search for images at Wikimedia Commons as well as other sources.



A picture is worth a thousand words.
(English proverb)

You can read about this English proverb at The Phrase Finder.
The poster is made with AutoMotivator.
The image is by nojhan at Flickr.



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