Thursday, May 15, 2008

Copyright- and Hassle-Free Images

Recently, a picture on this blog had to be removed. It was found through a Creative Commons search and carried permission for re-use. It turned out that the person who posted the image and labeled it for others to use didn't own the image.

The owner contacted this blog and the picture was removed, then replaced. When pulling together a class project, blog, wiki, video or Ning, it is important to not violate owner's rights or copyrights -- it can cause trouble for you and your students down the road. Errors are usually easy to fix but with a little work, you can avoid the hassle by directing your students and yourself to sites that have worry-free images for you to use.

There are dozens of sources for copyright-free images on the Web, some just for educators, some focused on particular image types or disciplines. Take a look at these sites for starters:
  • Flickr's Creative Commons pool is probably the best known source for images. Photographers allow varying levels of use of their images. Often, you can use an image as long as you give credit to the photographer and are not earning money with the image. Using the advanced search can help you find images that are free to use with proper credit.
  • Also pretty well known is Creative Commons search which taps Flickr, Google, Yahoo and other portals for images that have varying Creative Commons licenses. This search casts an even wider net than the Flickr pool, above.
  • Pics4Learning has copyright-free images in 48 different categories, ranging from American Sign Language to fractals to tools and machinery. The images in Pics4Learning have been donated by educators, students and photographers. It was created as part of the Partners in Education program by Tech4Learning, and the Orange County Public Schools Technology Development Unit.
  • OpenPhoto also has a great collection of free stock images. You can browse categories or use the search engine to find specific types of images.
  • U.S. Government Photos and Graphics at has images and graphics that can be used and reproduced without permission. Look carefully at your chosen image, though; some images are licenced. The images come from government departments like Agriculture, Customs, Defense, NASA and the Indian Health Service.
  • Wikimedia Commons has over 2 million "freely usable" images, video files and audio files. You can search by type of file or browse categories. Always check the copyright or Creative Commons license before using any image.
  • The Library of Congress American Memory collection is a great source of historical images but you must be careful about copyrights. Some images are free to use while others can only be used with the copyright owner's permission and possible fees. There is an advertising category that has great images for media literacy activities.
This wiki with a really long title has an enormous list of links for pages that offer images: Copyright-Friendly and Copyleft Images and Sound (Mostly!) for Use in Media Projects and Web Pages, Blogs, Wikis, etc.

Read carefully, and pick wisely, and be prepared for mistakes made by others or unclear permissions. In those cases, removing the copyrighted image is the best fix. If you are contacted by the owner of an image about a blog, wiki or student project, the same policy applies -- defer to the copyright owner and remove and/or replace the image. With so many options available, you and your students have plenty of image choices free of charge and worries.

SOURCE: "Copyright-Friendly and Copyleft Images and Sound (Mostly!) for Use in Media Projects and Web Pages, Blogs, Wikis, etc." 5/2008
photo courtesy of openDemocracy, used under this Creative Commons license

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