Creative Commons License — What Is It?

“Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
– Elliott Erwitt

Blog and website owners have one common goal: they need pictures. These images help deliver the content’s message. While text can elaborate on the theme of the content, an image can deliver a message in a more complex, visual way. It works as a hook to grab your reader and make them pay attention. Selecting the correct image will reward your site with shares and comments. Yet, select the wrong image, and it could be quiet on your site for quite awhile.

Luckily, there are plenty of sites where we can free images to use. These images can be for personal use or commercial use. While many of these sites say that attribution is not required (meaning you don’t have to give credit to the photographer), other sites do require this in exchange not paying for the photo.

These sites operate under what’s called a CC0 Creative Commons License. What does this mean? Well, it means this:

    • Photographers and artists have waived (or given up) their rights to copyright or database-protected content. They are essentially placing their work in the public domain.
    • The photos may then be reused or modified without any restrictions. You can add text, alter the brightness/contrast or change the photo’s image size.
    • The copyright holder chooses permissions or licenses to offer their sellers. Here are a few and what they mean:
    • Attribution License:  This allows the photographer to permit free download of their copyrighted photograph. In turn, under the Creative Common License (CC0), the buyer must give attribution to the photographer. How you give credit is in accordance with the photographer’s request. This means simply this: if you plan to use their photograph for commercial purposes, always seek their permission first.
    • ShareAlike License:  This license is a bit complicated. It allows the buyer to share the photo in any format and on any platform (such as social media). The user may adapt the photograph and modify it for any purpose. This includes modifying the photo for personal and/or commercial use. But here’s the catch-22. You must give attribution to the photographer. You must indicate which changes were made to the photograph, and you may not imply that the licensor endorses you. In addition, underneath the ShareAlike license, you may transform or build upon the photo but not exceed the distribution contributions as the original license which you purchased.
    • Non-Commercial: This license, under the Creative Common License, allows people to use photos for a personal use only. They may copy, distribute, display or modify a photograph. But, in order to use the photograph for a commercial use, they must seek out the permission of the photographer.
    • NoDerivatives: Lastly, this license allows others to copy, distribute or display original copies of a photograph. If they want to modify a photograph, they must get the permission of the photographer.
  • Public domain: This means that a photo is free to use without concern of copyright law. Nobody owns or controls these photos. But approach these photos with caution. If it is public domain within your region, that does not automatically mean it’s public domain on an international scale. This is because copyright law varies from region to region.

Please note: I am not a lawyer of any kind; however, I have studied copyright law while I attended journalism school. For a copy of the copyright law in the United States, click here: Copyright Law

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