Search and use of photographs from the online world

Intellectual propertyThere is sea of pictures online which can be used by an organization or a charity. Finding the right ones for a newsletter, website or a report requires careful consideration. Although the internet appears to be a massive free photo bank, use of copyrighted pictures without allowance isn’t legal. Several online destinations allow using free images legally. Consider the below mentioned guidelines to learn about them.

Copyright issues

Copyright is basically a legal protection provided to the owner or authors of an artistic work originally published and also unpublished. The author is granted exclusive and intellectual property rights by a copyright to produce copies of a real work, create inspired works varying from the main work and publicly display, perform and transmit this work.

This says that it’s not legal for anybody to use this work without the owner’s permission in any way. Violating such laws can lead to paying fines and legal sanctions. Certain copyrighted images can be openly licensed like the ones licensed via creative commons license.

Getting the permission

In three instances images can be borrowed for a site or the printed materials with no permission. It might be fast and hassle free compared to searching for the original owner to get the permission. However, crediting the artist is a good policy irrespective of the photo source.

If the photograph is present in public domain

There isn’t any legal owner for photos of the public domain. Any artistic work goes into public domain in different ways. Copyright might be expired or never renewed and/or this artistic work is completely dedicated to public domain.

If the image carries the designation ‘copyright free’

Several online picture banks advertise offering photos which are free of copyrights. Go through the terms of usage prior to taking them for personal use.

If the photograph is licensed openly

Openly licensed photographs say that intellectual property rights owner has decided in favour of automatically granting the reprint permission. License of  creative commons vary from being restrictive to fairly permissive. Firstly, understand all the terms of usage before using such images.

Browsing copyright-free online photograph banks

Some resources provide copyright free and public domain and openly licensed photos. One can use these photographs for a wide range of purposes. A handful of them may require the user to link them back onto the original website. It is better to check out with every site for the necessary guidelines.


It is basically a searchable photo bank for free stock images and credit is needed.


There are over 55,000 free and high resolution photographs available for public use.

There are over 6,000 stock photographs and it requires the user to provide the link of this site. Credit is also needed whenever a photo is printed or the otherwise offline material.

From Old Books

This public domain features over 3100 photographs to use based on different subjects. It requests a notification and the user should ink to the site for taking any image.

National park service

As the name suggests, there are 13,000 photos of parks in this public domain to usage. It requires crediting the NPS.

Image credit: Marek Uliasz