The Unsplash License
Table of Contents
- What is the Unsplash License?
- Where can I find the Unsplash Terms of Service?
- How is the Unsplash License different to the CC0 License?
- Can I use Unsplash photos for personal or commercial projects?
- Can I use Unsplash photos as part of a product to sell?
- Can I sell Unsplash photos?
- Can I use photos of landmarks and notable buildings?
- Why can’t I compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service?
- What do you mean by “compiling photos to replicate a similar or competing service”?
- Do I have to give credit to a photographer when I use their photo?
- A photo has been removed — can I still use it?
- Can you help me take down a photo on a third-party site?
What is the Unsplash License?
The Unsplash License is a description that states how Unsplash photos can be used. The Unsplash License can be found here.
How is the Unsplash License different to the CC0 License?
The Unsplash License is in the same spirit as the CC-0 License — the difference being that the Unsplash License does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service (read more about that here).
To summarize, the Unsplash License and the CC0 License:
- Are both sublicensable and non-revocable
- Both allow users to use photos for free, for personal and commercial purposes
- Both don’t require attribution
Therefore, unless you’re attempting to create a similar or competing site to Unsplash using Unsplash photos, this change in License should not affect your use of Unsplash photos.
Can I use Unsplash photos for personal or commercial projects?
The photos on Unsplash are free to use and can be used for most commercial, personal projects, and for editorial use. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.
You can read more about prohibited commercial and personal uses of Unsplash photos at https://unsplash.com/terms.
Can I use Unsplash photos as part of a product to sell?
Yes, you can use Unsplash photos as part of a product you sell. For example, using an Unsplash photo on a website that sells a product or service is fine.
However you cannot sell an Unsplash photographer’s photo without first updating, modifying, or otherwise incorporating new creative elements into the photos (i.e., selling unaltered copies of the photos). This includes selling the photos as prints or printed on physical goods.
Our Made with Unsplash collection has many examples of products created with Unsplash photos that showcase how photos can be used creatively.
Can I sell Unsplash photos?
As of February 19th, 2018, our Terms restrict the sale of all Unsplash photos without first updating, modifying, or otherwise incorporating new creative elements into the photos (i.e., selling unaltered copies of the photos). This includes selling the photos as prints or printed on physical goods.
Can I use photos of landmarks and notable buildings?
To upload a photo, the photographer agrees that they have the proper releases (model, trademark, etc.) needed to submit the photo on Unsplash, released under the Unsplash License. You can find more information on Unsplash’sTerms.
You are allowed to use a photo of a public structure as long as you do not infringe on any trademarks. For trademark infringement to occur, there has to be both use of the trademark and a likelihood of confusion that the person using the photo is endorsed by the trademark owner.
For instance, say you wanted to use a photo of the Eiffel Tower. If you were not authorized by the Eiffel Tower to sell tickets and you downloaded the photo and used it as part of an advertisement to sell tickets to the Eiffel Tower, then it’s likely that a consumer would mistaken that you are an endorsed ticket seller by the Eiffel Tower. This would infringe on the Eiffel Tower’s trademark rights. But if you’re a dentist and you decide to print up and frame the photo and hang it on your office wall, it’s highly unlikely that a patient would confuse that the Eiffel Tower endorses you. This would not be an infringement on the Eiffel Tower’s trademark rights.
Releases and Trademarks
The Unsplash License allows a photographer to relinquish their rights to a photo, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the user of the photo can use it for anything. Similar to a photo found on any other stock photography site, laws can still affect the usage of the photo, like trademark, copyright and privacy rights.
While the Unsplash License allows consumers to download photos for both commercial and personal use, trademark and copyright infringement are separate issues. So while photos can be downloaded for free, photos with brands, trademarks, and people’s faces in them have the additional aspect of trademark, copyright and privacy infringement.
- Trademarks / Brand photos: if a photo has a brand or trademark in it (ex: Star Wars), you can use the photos for personal use (ex: printing the photo to hang on your wall), but when using the photo for commercial use, it’s important not to insinuate that the brand / trademark is endorsing or taking part of the thing that you’re advertising. If the brand can make the case that the photo insinuates that they are part of the commercial message you’re trying to reveal, that’s where you can fall offside.
- People’s faces / celebrities: Photos that have people’s faces that are recognizable in the photos can be used for personal use and commercial use (as long the photo isn’t endorsing any negativity that could harm that person). However, photos that have celebrities in it would not be recommended for commercial use, since typically celebrities have additional privacy rights that don’t allow any company to profit off of their image. However, in both cases, these photos can be used for personal use.
While photographers agree that photos they upload on Unsplash have model releases, there is no reasonable way for us to monitor all photos that get uploaded to Unsplash. We cannot make any guarantees, therefore we recommend when using a photo containing a person, that you should not imply endorsement by the person in the photo.
We recommend reaching out to the photographer to clarify whether they have a model release, which you can do directly via the ‘message’ button on the photographers profile.
Why can’t I compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service?
In the Unsplash License we say, “This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.”
The Unsplash License is a reflection of our company Manifesto in which we state our aim is to build a platform that inspires creativity and respects creators who offer their work to the community.
The fuel that drives Unsplash is the exceptional images that are generously contributed by people from all over the world. Without them, none of this would work. Unsplash would be nothing. We owe everyone who’s contributed a photo not only a thank you but support and empowerment for the gifts they’ve given us.
Out of respect for our contributors and our ability to uphold our value of empowering creativity, we added this sentence to the Unsplash License.
We don’t support the mass duplication of Unsplash photos with the purpose of replicating a similar or competing service because it leads to confusion which negatively impacts both the spirit of open creative use and the celebration of Unsplash contributors.
While the Unsplash License itself cannot be revoked for photos that have already been downloaded from Unsplash, we allow Unsplash contributors to stop further distribution of their photo, and that’s not possible if the photo is redistributed without user permission on other sites. There are very few public places where people don’t have the ability to close their account or remove their content to some degree and we want Unsplash to follow that out of respect for our contributing photographers. Similarly, sites that redistribute the photos through crawling, scraping, and mass compiling techniques either redistribute them without credit or they create fake accounts for contributors with their name and personal information without permission. Some download the entire library and redistribute it for profit, which until now, is something we’ve had little power to approach.
Mass compiling of Unsplash photos to create a similar service has also created legal issues which confuses open creative use. If an Unsplash photo is copied to another site but is later removed from Unsplash (for instance, if there is a copyright complaint or it fails to comply with our Terms of Service), the photo will continue to be distributed on other platforms, potentially causing legal problems for the photographers and creators.
Finally, sites that mass duplicate and compile Unsplash photos point support and legal issues back to Unsplash, while continuing to redistribute photos that may be removed on Unsplash. This hurts community trust in Unsplash, creating support and legal cases we can’t control, and increases our support and legal costs in an unsustainable way.
Creativity should be open and those who contribute should be celebrated. This part of the Unsplash License ensures we can continue to do our best to fulfil this mission.
What do you mean by “compiling photos to replicate a similar or competing service”?
In the Unsplash License, we state, “This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service.” What we mean is if for example you were mass scraping or crawling images from Unsplash and using those photos to build a site just like Unsplash where your users could download, copy, modify, distribute or use photos originally found on Unsplash, for personal or commercial use.
Here’s more on the reason why compiling photos to replicate a similar or competing service doesn’t support Unsplash photographers and values of the Unsplash community.
Do I have to give credit to a photographer when I use their photo?
The Unsplash License allows you to use the photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without attributing the photographer or Unsplash.
Though it is not required, we encourage giving credit to Unsplash photographers when possible, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to the photographers who’ve gifted their photos for free, unlimited use.
A photo has been removed — can I still use it?
Legally, once a photo has been released under The Unsplash License it remain free-to-use, even if removed. However we recommend in cases like this, that people respect the photographers decision to remove the photo.
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