Helping You Not Steal: Resources for Legal and Ethical Image Use
Not knowing better is no longer an excuse.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve improperly used images in the past. In most cases — especially in the early days of Web2.0 — I didn’t know any better. “OMG,” I would think, “I can create presentations online where I can access them from anywhere and with a couple of right-clicks I can get any image on the internet and add it to my presentation! This is amazing!”
Amazing indeed. Until I knew better, it never occurred to me to stop and think about license and attribution. How could anything that felt so good possibly be so wrong?
For me, a friend’s simple questions helped me see the light: What do photographers and other artists do for a living? (Answer: Create.) How do they make a living as creators? (Answer: Get paid.) If you take from artists without permission, isn’t that stealing? (Answer: You bet your sweet bottom dollar it is!)
My friend made me realize that I was a thief. Once I knew better, I found that I developed a loud conscious unafraid to remind me to be my best self anytime I sought out others’ creations for my uses.
It’s 2017 and ignorance should no longer be an excuse for stealing images (and other creative properties) on the Internet. Nor should convenience; the defenders of copyright have made it extraordinarily easy to both know the difference between right and wrong as well as to offer tools to help us be on the side of Good when it comes to ethical use and attribution. Below are two collections of resources: one for learning and another for discovering images that already grant permission for non-commercial use.
Resources for Learning
Don’t be a thief! You’re better than that and here are links to help you be your best self as a digital citizen when utilizing others’ work:
- The How To Properly Search For and Attribute Creative Commons Photos post on globaldigitalcitizen.org by Lee Watanabe Crockett offers a great overview of what Creative Commons is, suggestions on searching for Creative Commons items and attribution guidelines.
- For attribution of images found on Flickr, Greg McVerry’s post about Alan Levine’s Flickr attribution tool is required reading. This dandy has changed my life. If you prefer not to install anything, ImageCodr is a simple web-based tool that allows you to get proper attribution text as well as HTML code (great for bloggers!) by simply pasting an image’s url.
- This article about Copyright and Fair Use is actually authored by a lawyer and it is written in accessible language. This brief post examining fair use and licensing costs (through the lens of Public Enemy and Beastie Boys albums) could be useful for a class discussion with concrete, real world examples.
- This “All About Creative Commons And Copyright For Educators” Livebinder by Steven W. Anderson is a veritable textbook on the topic.
- Get certified! As part of #OpenEducationWk last Spring, Alan Levine and colleagues developed a Creative Commons Certification Unit. To my knowledge, it’s still in beta but you (and your students!) can take it for a test drive here.
- For teaching students about Creative Commons, this resource by Bill Ferriter and University of North Carolina is a good starting place. Although it’s nearly a decade old, Rodd Lucier’s 14 Tools to Teach About Creative Commons is also still a valuable resource.
Resources for Discovering Images
- Google Images Search is the first — and often only — stop for many students seeking out images for their projects. What they need to know is that when they click on Tools, a Usage rights drop-down menu will appear, from which they can select the types of images they would like displayed. Additionally, the first images displayed might be sponsored images (as shown here). These are paid ads and not images for which they have usage rights.
- Getty has made over 82 Million images available for free embedding that includes the proper attribution in the embed code.
- Photos for Class offers an image search tool that promises to fetch only images that are safe for school use along with proper attribution.
- New York Public Library has shared over 720,000 digitized items from it’s collection.
- Unsplash offers free, high-resolution photos “gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.”
- PhotoPin has long been a personal favorite for searching millions of photos that are already designated Creative Commons. I like that it is easy and requires minimal steps.
- HistoricalStockPhotos.com offers an organized collection of free historical stock photos.
- For image search on mobile, the folks at Creative Commons have released a public beta of The List, an app to search for and utilize Creative Commons images. Last I checked, it was only available on Android.
- Wellcome Images offers free images related to biomedical science and its history for educational and research use.
- If you’ve ever accessed a list published by Larry Ferlazzo, you know it’s gold. His Best Online Sources for Images is no exception. He gives dozens of links, including most of what I’ve shared here. In addition, I like this post on 12 Useful Image Search Tools, as it adds in helpful tips and commentary, such as an advisement against doing a live internet search for images while connected to a projector.
- While I’ve focused on images, for other media, check out FreePlay Music, CC Mixter, and this post on 30+ Places to Find Creative Commons Media (from 2009, so some links no longer work).
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