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Wikimedia Commons Copyright-Free Pictures, Video

Updated on January 31, 2013
Find the image you want, no matter how weird it is.
Find the image you want, no matter how weird it is.

There are many websites that offer cheap stock photos and that store copyright-free pictures, but Wikimedia Commons has distinguished itself by offering an array of free media that can be used and distributed anywhere. In addition to copyright-free pictures, Wikimedia Commons has copyright-free video and sounds.

The free images and other files are searchable by file type, category and keyword. Users can also click the "random file" link to be taken to one random file from among the seven million available.

Stock Photo Images and Rights

Each work has its own listing of the rights that the creator of the stock photo has granted to others. Some are stock photo images that are in the public domain because they are public works created by the government. Others are images in the public domain because the rights to them have expired.

Newer, privately created images in this stock photo library have varying rights granted to users of the images. Some restrict where the images can be used, such as restricting the use on textbook covers, and others allow the use of the image anywhere as long as the image creator is credited with the work.

Using Caution With Free Images

Though the rights to each of the stock photos are explained on each image listing page, there are some legal questions about some of the photos and the ways in which they were obtained. Legal action from the U.K.'s National Portrait Gallery has made the question of which images are really in the public domain a complicated one that is still being disputed.

Images taken by the National Portrait Gallery were uploaded into the Wikimedia Common's photo library because the portraits are in the public domain. However, the museum contends that the photographs of the paintings are not in the public domain.

Jurisdictions and lost revenue have kept the dispute active, and the publicity has kept some users afraid to use the site at all. The question of rights has prompted some writers and bloggers to use cheap stock photos or other sites that offer free photos instead.

Photo Library Rights and Safety

To be sure that the rights granted by Wikimedia are legal in all jurisdictions, stick to images that are supplied by the photographer rather than public domain photos downloaded from other websites. Another safe bet is using free photos that were taken by a federal employee as a part of that employee's official duties. Those photos are legally in the public domain without restrictions.

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