Today there are many photobanks and photostocks that give everyone the opportunity to download photos, vectors, footages and other graphic content for free.

For example, let’s look at the fairly large and famous European photostocks Flikr, Pixabay and Wikimedia. All of them operate under a Creative Commons license.

There is an opinion that the public access according to this license gives the possibility to use the content according to your wish, but it is a myth. It also has its limitations, which you should always consider.

Let’s start with the one which gives the user the widest range of permissions.

Creative Commons – CC0

The German photostock Pixabay provides all images, vectors (over 630,000) and footage (about 1,300) under the broadest version of the Creative Commons license – CC0. According to this protocol, the authors completely waive all rights to their works, allow to modify them and use for commercial purposes without reference to the author or the source site.

So what restrictions can there be with this permission from the author of the image? It turns out that there aren’t very few.

Photos that have people in them and can be identified cannot be used in situations that might compromise or offend the dignity of those people.

The use of photos with people or logos depicted in them should not be used in a way that could make it appear that the companies whose logos appear in the photo or those people are recommending your product.
Releasing the image itself to the public domain does not override other compulsory licenses: model release and owner release. For example, you can’t use an image of the Eiffel Tower at night or a photo of the London Ferris wheel without permission.

So, the conclusion is simple – the Creative Commons version of CC0 is the photographer’s waiver of his copyright, but the responsibility for using the content of that very image will be on you.

Besides, next to some images you can find a note Editorial (Editorial use). Such images can be used solely for non-commercial purposes, such as publishing (newspapers, magazines), blog posts, non-commercial presentations, articles in encyclopedic literature, etc.

All the images uploaded to the site remain there forever, so the presence of an image on the site is already a guarantee that the author has transferred the rights to it to the public domain.

Other types of licenses

Wikimedia and Flikr are image repositories in the millions. They are not exactly photostocks as we understand them. Here any registered user can upload his own images, so not all of them are suitable for “professional” use. Nevertheless, with such a variety it is possible to find the necessary content.

Beside each photo there is a note about which version of the license is applied to this particular image. Let’s see what versions there are.

All Rights Reserved – all rights belong to the author, so it is a violation of the law to use this image without his consent.

Attribution (attribution, attribution of authorship) – you can use, distribute and modify this image with the obligatory reference to the author.

Attribution No Derivatives – the same terms as in the above license, but without permission to remake (modify) the image.

Non-Commercial (non-commercial use) – the name says it all. You can redistribute and modify, but only for noncommercial purposes, otherwise you’ll need to contact the author and ask his permission additionally.

Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives – the same as the previous license, but without permission to modify the original image.

Public Domain Dedication (CC0) – the license already described in detail above.

To conclude

When working with free content, it is very important to pay attention to the type of license under which this content is distributed. Be careful and you won’t have any legal problems.