Who Needs Copy-Paste? Search for Freely Licensed Images Online

Beirut Beach
Yesterday, as part of a train-the-trainer assessment, I gave a session about how to use Flickr + Creative Commons to find beautiful images available for remixing and reuse online. There are more than 200 million Creative Commons–licensed photos on Flickr, many of them not relevant to you, of course, but many of them beautiful (like the photo above of Beirut taken by [sic!]ut.at) created by talented artists who just like to share.
To search for photos, first brief yourself on the distinction between the six Creative Commons licenses and what each of the icons means. Some images are available for commercial use and others noncommercial. Some you can alter; others you have to use as is. And some creators attach a condition to their works that says: you can reuse it but only if you share it under the same license. All licenses require that you attribute the creator of the original work. But you already knew to do that, right? That’s just good manners.
The Public Domain
Beyond Creative Commons is another set of images out here on the Web in the public domain. If something’s in the public domain, it means that the public, as in you and me and everyone else, we all own it. Or actually, no one owns it, but anyone can use it. The Open Knowledge Foundation has published Guide to Finding Interesting Public Domain Works Online. (Thanks to Jane Park of the CC blog for the tip.) We like the “interesting.”
The guide is short and provides logos, links, and brief descriptions of several libraries in the virtual sky, including well-known Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons, and the Library of Congress as well as perhaps lesser-known ones, such as Europeana, Open Images, Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Public Domain Review and others.
Why not boycott excessive copyrighters?
An aside: With all this free stuff out there, who needs to steal the less “interesting” muzak or drawer liner from the record companies or the motion picture studios? And on that note, with all these means of production at our fingertips, why do we continue to watch and listen to what they make in the first place? Wouldn’t that be a more effective form of protest than signing a petition to stop SOPA? If we Web creators used public domain and Creative Commons all the time, I think that’s when we’d really start to develop the economy we say we’re looking for.


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