How to find free images and other media

Modified on: 2014-11-06 13:42:15 -0600

What do we mean by 'free media'?

While much content on the internet is subject to copyright laws, there are increasing numbers of websites that provide copyright-free content you can use on your website/blog at no cost.

To make a blog post more interesting and increase views and reader engagement, you might consider including some of this copyright-free content, including photos or artwork to illustrate your blog. You might even consider enhancing your blog posts by adding other types of media like audio files, movies and even books.

Much of this content will either be classified as being in the public domain, meaning it is old enough to no longer be subject to copyright laws; it has been explicitly labeled as copyright-free (also sometimes referred to as copyleft); is licensed GNU Free Documentation; or carries one of the Creative Commons licenses for use and redistribution under one of several different license options.

Note that much of this free content will come with explicit rules about how it can be used. Often that is simply the stipulation that you credit the original artist and/or the site where it resides. In some cases there may be other restrictions (such as the media cannot be used for commercial purposes), so it’s always a good idea to review the site’s rules or the specific license under which the media is being released before using the material.

Below are some of the many options for free media.

The Internet Archive

internet-archive-150x150The Internet Archive, also known as, offers free videos, audio, and books that are in the public domain. 

Here are links to just a few of their many collections:

cc.largeCreative Commons is a nonprofit organization that “enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” They explain that they do not provide an alternate to copyright but instead offer an option to modify the terms of the copyright to better suit your needs.

The Creative Commons Search page includes searches within Wikimedia Commons, YouTube, and Open Clip Art Library, among others. You can use their search box to find content that is licensed for commercial use as well as content that may be modified.

Flickr Commons

FlickrLogoFlickr Commons is a site for publicly-held photography collections. As the site explains, they feature images archived by cultural heritage institutions around the world and are endeavoring to make this content more widely available.

For more information, visit the Flickr Commons usage page, which explains both the rights to the media and provides a list of participating institutions, which includes many museums and archives such as the British Library, The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

You can also use Compfight to easily search images. Although it’s not affiliated with Flickr, it does search Flickr images with an easy option to find images that are licensed under Creative Commons and free to use with attribution.

Wikimedia Commons

wikimedia-commons-logoWikimedia Commons is a massive database of freely usable media, featuring the media using in all Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia. For more information on the usage of media from Wikimedia Commons, please see their documentation on reusing material outside of Wikimedia.

Project Gutenberg

project-gutenberg-logoProject Gutenberg is a non-profit organization that makes books and other literary materials available free of charge. Most of their materials are now in the public domain, meaning the text and associated illustrations may be used free of charge. They are now also including copyrighted materials, which will fall under different licensing. For more information,  you can view their licensing information.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you can use a custom search in Google.

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