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How to get copyright free images for your hub or blogpost

Updated on August 3, 2011

Content is king!

The best hubs are interesting, provide unique content and are completely - legally - yours. Writing is one thing. You're probably good at it, or at least interested in it, to be at hubpages in the first place. Research is another. There are countless websites and articles that you can reference online to research anything from bebop to chainsaws; watermelon to Astroturf. Just as important are the images and graphics accompanying your hub.


A picture licensed for reuse is worth a thousand words.

Getting graphic content: pictures, images and graphs; that are licensed for commercial reuse (for those of us writing hubs with revenue sharing turned on) or licensed for non-commercial reuse (for those hubbers who do not have revenue sharing turned on) is easy to do. I’ll give you my perspective on how to find great content, as well as some thoughts along the way.


Why bother getting images licensed for reuse?

Just because you can get any image your want from a google image search and put it on your hub, doesn’t mean you should. Firstly, it is illegal to use copyrighted images. Most images returned by a google search are copyrighted. The photographer has to actively seek a reuse license for a picture to be eligible for reuse by another person. The use of a copyrighted image can result in a $150,000 fine; and aggressive lawyers also want to seize the domain name of the offending party so that the infringement ends, and the domain name changes hands! That's some pretty stiff medicine!

The other main reason not to, is since it is someone else’s image, they may want remuneration for it. Imagine if you took a picture of a lava spill, potentially risking your life, got a spectacular shot; and then found it plastered all over the web without even making a dime. It's one thing if that's your intention and you are glad for the exposure. Suppose you intended to be paid for your efforts; then someone else taking your image and using it for free just isn't right. Using content licensed for reuse is the new normal.


Understanding licenses that allow graphics and images to be reused in your hub.

The Creative Commons reuse licenses emerged to answer a need for easy to access to reuse images (and other works of art, literature, film and so on) without the limitations of traditional copyrighting; and the desire of people making such works to actually get their images (and everything else that's currently copyrighted) seen by a larger audience. The licenses at Creative Commons make it easy for a person to release their work in a variety of different copyright free or copyright limited ways.

The Creative Commons offers six different kinds of public copyright licenses. Broadly they fall into two major categories. First is the Commercial (CC) license whereby the image (or other material - songs, films, etc.) so marked may be reused for commercial applications - which includes hubs if you have adsense or any other revenue sharing streams turned on. The second overarching category is NonCommercial (CC NC), which allows that the image (etc.) may only be used by another person if they won't make money from it themselves.

These two main categories each are further divided into three subcategories. The subcategories apply to each of the two main categories, making six categories in all. The first of the subcategories allows others to use photoshop or otherwise tweak the work (in this case an image) and in exchange the creator of the original image is given credit. This is known as Attribution (or BY; as in photo "BY" John Smith). So, if the main category is Commercial, and the second is BY it is designated as CC BY. If the main category is NonCommercial, and the second category is BY than it is designated as CC BY NC. These two licenses give the new user of the image the greatest freedom; one is designed for commercial applications, the other for noncommercial.

The other two subcategories are called No Derivatives (ND) and Share Alike (SA). The first allows the new user of the image to use the image only as it originally appears. This means no cropping of the image or any other kind of changes to it. The second means that if you tweak the image and re-use it, you must license your new creation under identical terms. There is a complete discussion of all these Creative Commons licenses here.

How to get images licensed for reuse from the web.

It's easy to get an image that you can reuse for your hubs, commercial or otherwise. The best way I have found is to use Google's image advance search function. Start with a regular Google search. In the upper left of that page you'll see a few tabs. One is labeled images; click on it. A new window opens up dedicated to searching images. To the right of the area where you enter a search word is a link "Advanced Image Search". Click on that link and on the page that opens up look for the words "Usage Rights" in the column at the left of the page. It is the second to last entry just above "SafeSearch". Opposite the "Usage Rights" you will see a drop down menu. Click on that, and then choose the appropriate license. If you want to add images to a commercial hub, then click on either "labeled for commercial reuse" or "labeled for commercial use with modification". If you need graphics for noncommercial reuse, simply look for “labeled for reuse” or “labeled for reuse with modification” in the same drop down menu. After you have activated the filter here, go to the top of the advanced search and enter in your search words.

Some notes about keywords.

Generally at this point I will put the keywords I have in mind into the "related to all of the words" search area. Once I click on "Google Search" a new window opens with the results for that search. It's as easy as that to find images for almost any topic. A similar service is available on Yahoo and Flickr. Many photographs, graphics and even videos with Creative Commons licenses are on flickr. Flickr is the only service (as of this writing) that lets you search for videos that have a Creative Commons license.

Finding videos licensed for reuse on Flickr.

To find videos labeled for reuse on Flickr, you will need to use Flickr’s advanced search function. Type in the keyword that you have in mind, and be sure to highlight the button “Only Videos” opposite the words “Search by media type”. You will also need to check the appropriate box opposite the words “Creative Commons”. By following these steps you will be able to find videos labeled for reuse! Because Flickr doesn’t differentiate between Commercial Reuse and NonCommercial Reuse licenses, be sure to read the source material’s license. The license is in the column to the right of the video (or photo, graphic, etc. on Flickr); and there will be a link there. Follow the link and read the licensing (which is presented in easy to understand language); and be sure it fits your intended use.

More about keywords

With any of these search engines, it's a good idea to think of different variations on a theme to get as many pictures as possible from which to choose. To get the pictures for my hub Chainsaw Art I used several variations: "chainsaw art", "chain saw art", "chainsaw sculpture", "chainsawsculpture" and so on. Each variation yielded a different set of pictures. Though all of the pictures returned are designated "CC BY", "CC BY-NC" or "CC BY-SA" not all of them are acceptable for use in my article. Some of them just didn't cut it aesthetically; for others images from Flickr (which is the best source of reuse licensed images), there is a further legal issue.

Fine Tuning - further legal issue at Flickr.

Flickr puts its licensing information along the right side of the screen. Scroll down to find the license; and then look just below it. If there is text that reads "Request to license (account holder's name) photo via Getty Images”, then you will have to pay to use the image. You may not legally use that image for free. It is not legal. Look instead for images that don't have that message from Getty that have appeared in your filtered-for-commercial-reuse or filtered-for-noncommercial-reuse search. Those images are legal for you to use.

Since you have gone to all the trouble of finding images and properly attributing them, it only makes sense to alert the user on Flickr that you have used their image. Likely they will be grateful, and if you use the URL for your hub in the process of thanking them on Flickr you will get a backlink to your hub. Writing hubs is only part of the equation for success; getting eyeballs on them is the other. What better way to do that then to prime you hub with backlinks that will be read by people likely to look at your hub.

Some other tips.

If you are looking for images around a less common subject, as I was with the chainsaw art hub; or if you like the style of a photographer or artist you find on the web offering content licensed as CC, then it makes sense to look at more of their work immediately. Often they will have more pictures you can use that didn’t turn up in the search engine’s results. After all the owner of the series of photos may not use the same tags to describe all of the ones in a series. Or, by looking at their work you may find more images in a style that you like. In either event, send them a message to let them know that you are using their image(s). They will most likely get a thrill out of it, and they may offer you more images that aren’t for general reuse (that is that they have on a private photo stream, or are on their computer) which are relevant to the hub you are writing. When I notified the photographers responsible for the chainsaw art pictures, one of them sent me a link to another 20 pictures or so of a chainsaw art masterpiece.

Also, you may find some of the links on CWanamaker’s hub to be useful. He has a compenium of 42 sites that offer images intended for reuse.

I remixed this photo with photoshop for your amusement!
I remixed this photo with photoshop for your amusement! | Source

Quality hubs are legal hubs.

Quality hubs reign supreme. There are lots of photographers, graphic artists and videographers who license their work so you may legally reuse it. By using search engines like Google and Flickr, you can easily find quality work licensed for reuse on the web. Give the original artist credit and recognition on your hub. Take the time to make a backlink to your hub when possible. Follow these steps to get legal graphic content for your hub. Remember, a good hub is made better by including the right images.


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    • Robert Hughes profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Hughes 

      6 years ago


      There's a link in the article above to CWanamaker's hub that has a lot of sites listed. Since writing this hub, I'm enamored of public domain. Googling a word followed by "public domain" (in quotation marks like that) yields a wealth of images, many which don't require you to make any sort of attribution, and may be used for any purpose. Very good, that. Hope you find the info that you need, and let me know if you end up with a list of sites.

    • ssteinberger profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the great tipps! I already had my "problems" with disrespected copyrights, so I try to use only images, that are really free and don't need any attribution. For cliparts, is just awesome and has everything. An ultimate database of public domain photos is

      Do you know more such websites? I'd like to make a list ...




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