How to get Copyright Free Images

Embed from Getty Images

Following the news that Getty Images have just taken the decision to allow images (1) on its site available for bloggers to use for free, I thought it would be timely to look at the issue of digital image copyright on the Internet and where you can find copyright free photos and images that you can use to illustrate your blog or other online material which can be seen by anyone.

It’s a massive change of direction from the company, which had previously developed a reputation for being litigious about unlicensed use of its photography, suing small organisations for infringement.  Getty has not been able to stop people using and redistributing its images without permission, so it is adopting a more pragmatic approach to the question of how to make money from its images.

Using Getty’s new embed feature, bloggers can now take a photo from the world’s largest stock photo agency’s collection, such as the one of Usain Bolt above, and include it free of charge on social media.  This can be done without fear of litigation, provided it is for non-commercial use. Users can choose from art-directed creative images or editorial images which includes sports events, fashion shows and celebrity gatherings like the Oscars.  The company has made somewhere in the region of 59 million images, of which over half – 32,739,741 – have been made available through the new tool.  Images can now be shared on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  Not all of these images can be downloaded by right-clicking on the image, without the watermark, and the intention may that editing and remixing is not being encouraged.  For more information on the how to use Getty’s embed code click here and for a link to those 32,739,741 images* which can be embedded click here.

Getty Embed Icon  means it can be used

Getty Embed Icon </> means it can be used for free

While this is good news for bloggers, it is not a universally loved decision because of the large number of photographers who have already submitted their photos and make a living out of selling their snaps to the agency.  According to Getty Images executive Craig Peters:

“The principle is to turn what’s infringing use with good intentions, turning that into something that’s valid licensed use with some benefits going back to the photographer” (2)

Some pay-for image sites, such as Shutterstockrequire a subscription to get the best deal or have time limits applied to the images, such as with Cartoon Stock.  Another site, an image marketplace called Picfair, charges variable amounts for each photo depending on whatever their contributors has asked for, with a small commission (20%) each time. Sites like Picfair have lovely, straightforward licensing agreements, with clear instructions on what you can and can’t do with the images.  They are reasonable and ‘fair’ to both parties. But they are not free and are often for single use only.

Benji Lanyado, Picfair’s founder, says Getty’s motivation is clear:

“People who were previously not paying for Getty images, and were never going to… now do not need to pay for Getty images. Instead of chasing infringers, Getty is offering them a deal.” (3)

Embed from Getty Images

All images are effectively owned by someone.  At some point they have all been created. Nearly all creative works are copyrighted. Many photographers deliberately take pictures for sale, in the same way that an artist paints pictures in order to make a living.  So how do you respect a photographer’s work?

In theory you have to ask the owner, or producer of the original image, and would need to ask for permission to use it.  But this is often not feasible or practical.  Quite often, we do not need to know who produced the original image and there appears to be no copyright warning attached to it.  We might think it is ‘fair game’ to use an unattributed image.  ‘Fair game’ has no legal weight behind it, however, and this differs from ‘fair use’, which does cover a limited set of legitimate uses. ‘Fair Use’ covers the use of images where there is a necessity to be able to use an image to complement or illustrate something such as, for example, a critique or review.  Wikipedia operates under a fair use policy for its reproduction of otherwise copyrighted images, often low resolution ones.  Correct interpretation of ‘fair use’ would state that permission does not have to be sought for reproduction of small sections or for limited distribution.

There are a number of misconceptions or myths about both copyright and fair use, which have already been thoroughly analysed and debunked in this post by Sue Lyon-Jones of The EdTech Hub. Take this myth, for example about educational purposes and ‘fair use’:

Sue Lyon-Jones on the EdTech Hub - http://bit.ly/1cENfEH

Sue Lyon-Jones on The EdTech Hub – http://bit.ly/1cENfEH (4)

Another common mistaken belief is that if the user is not making any money out of using the image then it is OK to do whatever they want with it.  That does not, in theory at least, prevent a potential claim for copyright.  Organisations have been sued where images have been re-used without permission.

Another common mistaken practice is to use the image and simply to credit the source. Quite often this source is neither the original source nor the owner or copyright holder.  Just doing a Google Image search for an ‘open door’ will bring up a lot of lovely images which have been ‘borrowed’, for use on numerous blogs, seemingly without permission.

So what if you want a free, non-copyrighted image, as most individuals do, for a blog, which you can re-use how you want to, without any worry about restrictions and without the hassle of taking the photo yourself?  You need to use images which are already copyright free or where permission to re-use has already been granted, which will normally cover use for non-commercial purposes.

There are a number of sites available and a selection are mentioned below. Each have their own particular licencing terms. If the photos have a Creative Commons license, the original creator specifically designates what they want to be done with their original work, and they’ll choose the right license to let you know what you can do with it.  Most of these sites have a download option, although a simple right-click on any image and ‘save image as’ will usually be sufficient:

  • As I stated in my previous post, the Flickr-based #ELTpics is a great resource for original photographs, with over 17,000 uploaded. It is mostly used by language teachers to offer free-to-use photos to other language teachers around the world.  All the photos have an attribution non-commercial licence. You can use the photos provided you acknowledge or attribute the source.  I have just recorded some screencasts for Teacher Training Videos and here is the link.

eltpics banner

  • Compfight is a Flickr search tool but is not affiliated with the Yahoo-owned site. It has access to millions of images from Flickr, although many are restricted. You can search by all types of licence, by creative commons or by commercial licence. Central to the Compfight experience is the number of filters and options available to search with. You can search by ‘tag’, ‘all text’, ‘licence’, ‘creative commons’, ‘commercial’, ‘safe search’ and ‘show/hide originals’.   Clicking on an image shows the specific CC licence.  You can copy and paste an embed code which will show the correct attribution. It contains a sponsored link to Shutterstock.
  • Photo Credit: Konstantin Lazorkin via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Konstantin Lazorkin via Compfight cc

  • FreeFoto.com is made up of 132549 images with 183 sections organized into 3640 categories. Non-commercial users may download their web size images to used off-line. Basically if your off-line use is not commercial you can download their web size images for free. Each photo comes with an option to either download, licence (unrestricted paid-for) or share (embed). Each image is catergorised – for example, strawberries (see below) comes under ‘fruit 1’ and shown alongside similar categories, for example, other types of food. It also contains sponsored links to Shutterstock and many of the better, more professional photos come from there. Anyone, by which they mean commercial and non-commercial alike, can use the images in an online setting, providing they provide attribution to the image and a link back to FreeFoto.com.  Online use is covered by the Creative Commons license for non-commercial, no derivatives, attribution license.

Photo: Strawberries by Ian Britton – cc FreeFoto.com

  • Morgue File – Images are not only free in this excellent resource but often do not require full attribution. You can do a quick search with this resource and bring up information about each photo quickly.  The  images are provided with free usage rights. A search for ‘piano’ (see below) is typical of what is available.  The image can be copied, distributed, and adapted. You are prohibited using the images in a stand alone manner, for example, exhibiting the image as if it is your own. The photographer is credited along with the date when the image was uploaded.  You can easily search for other images by that photographer or by keyword.  The image URL is also clearly shown and there are links to posting directly onto social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest).  There are links to i Stock / Getty Images, which may have been very recently added. Either way, these images work the same as the Getty Images above.  There are also links to paid-for stock image services, Dreamstime and Fotolia. It also has a section called ‘ops’ which, similar to #ELTpics, are uploads using a particular hashtagged theme, plus there is a community and instructional lessons on taking good photos.
Piano #49 Whale Song

Piano #49 Whale Song by Earl53 cc Morgue File

  • Open Photo has a clear display with ‘photo of the day’ and some featured pictures. Items can be searched for by subject or by keyword.  Opening up a set will also display other keyword search options.  Each photo has the uploader’s name clearly shown below, as well as very clear information on what creative commons rights have been granted and what you are allowed to do.  You need to right-click and save image as to get a copy.  For the image below, which is a typical example, an attribution non-commercial NoDerivs 3.0 Unported licence applies, which means you must attribute the source, it must be non-commercial purposes, but it cannot be used if it is remixed or transformed.  The licence code usually needs to be copied as well as proper attribution shown.
Untitled Flower by Antonello Michele Mastinu

Untitled by Antonello Michele Mastinu for openphoto.net

  • Image*After is not just about photos.  It also includes textures.   The image sizes are quite large.  There are numerous ways to search, via subject, texture or keyword. Although, initially, it does not appear as user-friendly, the quality of the images and the comparative freedoms to do what you like with the images marks this resource out as an excellent option.  You do not have to attribute, such as with the ‘glass’ textured image below.  In fact, there is no creator named.  Under its terms of use you can actually modify the images and textures, can use them for commercial purposes and can redistribute or sell the images as part of printed work. There are adverts for Shutterstock but these are clearly marked above and below the free images.
  • b19glass010

There are already some screencasts by Russell Stannard on Teacher Training Videos, about the last three, along with his own discussion about copyright and creative commons, as well as two further sources, Public Domain Pictures and Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, if you are ever in doubt and want to really illustrate your blog with an original photo then you could always use one which have gone and taken yourself.

Beach Road (28) - Sepia edit

‘Seagulls taking off’ by Phil Longwell. Taken 8 March 2014.

*as of 10 March 2014.

References:

(1) BBC News, 2014. Getty makes 35m photos free to use. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26463886. Accessed 8 March 2014.

(2) Brandom, Russell, 2014. The world’s largest photo service just made its pictures free to use. The Verge. Available at: http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/5/5475202/getty-images-made-its-pictures-free-to-use. Accessed 8 March 2014.

(3) Hern, A. 2014. Photographers warn of ‘cynical’ move by Getty to provide free pictures. The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/07/photographers-getty-images. Accessed 8 March 2014.

(4) Lyon-Jones, S. 2012. Copyrights or Copy Wrongs? Available at: http://www.edtech-hub.com/index.php/copyrights-or-copy-wrongs/. Accessed 8 March 2014.

#ELTpics – 100 Up!

#ELTpics has just turned 100. Not years, but sets.  The current set or theme is ‘Spot The Difference’ (16 Feb-1 Mar), in which contributors are being asked to send in two similar photos which have slight differences. Previous sets include adjectives, bookshelves, contrasts and ‘Things I see every day’.  For the latest set, photos should ideally be positioned together as one image for ease of future use in the classroom, although this is not essential.  It is proving to be very popular, giving contributors the chance to be creative with their imagery.  Some are taking pictures which are seconds apart, while others are taking images from the same place on entirely different days.

Flickr Sets – 21 out of 100

#ELTpics, the Flickr-based photo sharing ready-made resource for language teachers, was launched in October 2010 when three teachers, Victoria Boobyer (at that time a teacher in Vietnam), Carol Goodey (Adult Literacies & ESOL Worker in Community Learning and Development with a local authority in Scotland) and Vicky Loras (a teacher in Switzerland and co-founder of The Loras Network) decided to start tweeting pictures to each other theme on a given theme.  In Spring 2011, two more curators, Fiona Mauchline and Sandy Millin, joined the team. As of today’s date, 20 February 2014, there are well over 16,000 collected photos, which are grouped by sets.  Any one photo might be placed in more than one set.  Every two weeks teachers and other folks in ELT are invited to take and share photos on a given theme.  This theme is publicised on Facebook and Twitter by the curators, which are now Victoria – @elt_pics, Fiona – @fionamau, @JulieRaikou and @mkofab – using the hashtag #eltpics.

The conditions placed on photos being uploaded and shared were – and continue to be – that photos must be the photographers’ own, they must be ‘live’ rather than computer graphics, and any recognisable person appearing as the subject in a photo must have given their consent.  All of the photos are free to use under a creative commons licence.  That is, you must give appropriate credit and it needs to be for non-commercial purposes, such as for use in the classroom.  If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same licence as the original.

As well as the Flickr resource, there is a blog called ‘Take a photo and…”, maintained by #ELTpics’ gatekeeper, Fiona.  This is an ideas site for how to use the uploaded images.  For example, this post is about creating #ELTpics mosaics, possibilities and modal auxiliary verbs.  It also suggests ways of using two similar, but slightly different photos, which is useful for the 100th theme/set, ‘Spot the Difference’. Another blog which focuses on a series of interviews with contributors and ran for one year is here.

Image: @HanaTicha

Image: @HanaTicha

The resource was the topic of two #ELTchat discussions on 30 May 2012, for which Shaun Wilden wrote a summary and one year later – 29 May 2013, with a summary written by Lizzie Pinard.

Fiona and Victoria take turns in doing promotional stuff for the resource, including a 30 minute session given in May 2013 at the 6th Virtual Web Conference. You can view that session here.

#ELTpics was also shortlisted for an ELTons award for innovation in teacher resources in 2013.  It was previously nominated for best group blog and best Twitter hashtag in the 2011 Edublog awards.

Wait - Spot The Difference - by @harrisonmike

‘Wait’ – Spot The Difference – by @harrisonmike, remixed by @teacherphili

To date, I have mostly used #ELTpics when I want to illustrate something I have written about for a blog post or #ELTchat summary.  For the summary on ‘How to teach Spelling’, for example, I used eight images from the ‘Things that look like letters’ set – see below.  I have, so far, only used #ELTpics once in my own teaching, on a pre-sessional course last summer, when I created a mosaic of buildings in different parts of the world, from the ‘Important Buildings’ set.  I know that the resource is a wonderful place to get interesting, copyright-free images from fellow professionals, which can be used, adapted or remixed as needed.

Spelling Montage Remixed

Spelling Montage Remixed – originals by @sandymillin @mk_elt @Senicko @gemmateaches

Interview with Victoria Boobyer

To mark the appearance of the 100th set, Fiona Mauchline suggested I write this post and that I contact Victoria Boobyer, the only original founder still actively involved, for an interview about this ongoing resource, now in its fourth year.

  • Why did you start #ELTpics along with Carol and Vicky?

Well, we were sending each other photos of everyday things from Vietnam, Scotland and Switzerland via Twitter anyway… and it soon became clear that we had the makings of a really nice resource for teachers.  The next logical step was to involve other teachers via the hashtag #eltpics

  • The project seems to be an all-girl thing – the ‘#ELTpics chicks’ I have heard it called.  Is there a deliberate policy or reason behind that?

‘Chicks’ really?  It’s just happened that way.  We put out a call for volunteers when it was becoming too much for me to manage as I was taking my Delta. It so happened women replied. Then as others have become busy for short periods (i.e. Sandy volunteering at the Olympics and doing her own Delta) further women volunteers stepped in.

  • How many photos have now been uploaded in total to the #ELTpics Flickr page?

I’ve just uploaded the 16,894th.  Which was one of yours, Phil. 🙂

  • What is your favourite set and why?

This is one of those tricky questions.  I’ll always like ‘Water’ as it was our first set, but I think in terms of a teaching resource, I love ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’. Each picture is an instant activity really because teachers have taken the pictures and have seen the potential and this potential will be seen by other teachers.  Even if you start by asking, ‘What story does this picture tell?’ it’s a great language producing activity.

  • Is there a set idea that you have had but have so far not used for practical or other logistical reasons?

We started but have had to be really careful with the PARSNIPS (things you wouldn’t usually find in ELT course books) set.

  • Are there any legal issues when publishing images of people, for example your class of students?  Is permission all that is required usually?

Yes, there are legal restrictions regarding portraits but also we want to be responsible.  This means that we ask that permission is sought for recognisable images of people and from parents of children. Also check with the school policy on this.

  • What is your favourite activity you know about that uses or can use #ELTpics in the classroom?

I really like Ceri Jones’ ‘An open door…?’ micro writing activity that she wrote for the ‘take a photo and…’ blog. http://takeaphotoand.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/an-open-door/  I like this activity because it takes an everyday object – a door – and results in a lot of classroom language.

  • Who do you think has contributed the most photos, other than those directly involved in running it?

I wouldn’t like to name anyone in particular as some folks send lots of photos in short periods whereas others have been steady regulars.  Also, some of the more recent contributors are quite prolific but joined later.  Every single photo is gratefully received.  🙂

  • Who is the most famous ELT person(s) that has/have so far contributed an image?

I have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Gavin Dudeney, Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury who are the big ELT names that gave us support right from the very beginning.  I still think quite a lot of the ‘Food’ set is made up of Scott’s photos.  😉  Since then, many luminaries have come on board the #ELTpics train.

  • Were you disappointed not to win an ELTon award last year?

Am I supposed to say ‘no’ here?  No but really… we were very chuffed to reach the shortlisted stage because is meant that Carol, Fiona and myself finally got to meet each other.

  • How do you see the future of #ELTpics?  Are there any changes planned or is it more of the same?

Why change something that is working so splendidly?

  • Is there anything you would like to add or make clear about #ELTpics that has not already been said?

Just that we would love to hear on twitter and the Facebook page how people use #ELTpics in their classes because then we can then share this with other teachers.

That’s it!  My thanks to Victoria for taking the time to reply.

100 Sets

#ELTpics’ 100 Sets – click to see full size

References and further sources for how to use #ELTpics:

Mauchline, F, 2011: #ELTpics – How Does It Work. Available at: http://www.eltpics.com/howdoesitwork.html. Accessed 17 February 2014.

Mauchline, F. 2011-13. Take a photo and… http://takeaphotoand.wordpress.com/about/ Accessed 16 February 2014.

Millin, S. 2011. How to join in with eltpics. http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/how-to-join-in-with-eltpics/ Accessed 16 February 2014.

Pinard, L. 2013. How to use a great resource like eltpics for your teaching-  a summary. http://bit.ly/1bd7pEJ. Accessed 17 February 2014.

Wilden, S. 2012. How do/could you use a resource such as #ELTpics? http://bit.ly/1hpexAV. Accessed 17 February 2014.