Free Media, or How to Not Be a Zombie Pirate

Resources for Free Media

To help prevent the spread of Zombie Piracy, I’ve collected some resources to help you find media files (audio, video, e-books etc…) which are free to use. Make sure to read and adhere to the terms of use carefully. Some media might not be free (or even usable) for commercial purposes, author attribution might be required, or there may be other conditions:

Free Media (Images, Sounds, Video, etc…)

Free Pictures and Graphics:

  • Free images for use even in commercial applications, but you cannot claim ownership of, or resell the images.
  • A popular picture-sharing site. The copyright and usage info for each picture can be found under “Additional Information”
  • Google Image Search is useful for finding free pictures and graphics, if you know how to use it. Use the   Advanced Search Settings and under “Usage Rights” select from the list of available filters.
  • has tons of amazing art, but not all of it is free. You have to look at the details for each picture to see the copyright restrictions.

Free Sounds and Music:

Free E-books:

If you know of other good sources for free-to-use material, please post them in the comments section.

Here are some bonus features for you to think about as you download all that “free” media…

Fair Use?

Those who want to know the truth about “Fair Use” can get it straight from the horse’s mouth here:

But here is all you really need to know, from the website:

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined.

and this:

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material.

Besides, you don’t really want to argue over the definition of “Fair Use” in court, right? It isn’t worth it.

One thing you can do to help avoid issues from the start is…

Attribution of Your Sources

Some “free” media require you to attribute the author/source/owner of the media. Attribution is simply mentioning the copyright holder. This could be as simple as putting their name near a quote like this:

Twitter is about as useful as a wet-nap is to a scuba diver.

-Conrad Zero

Or it could be listing the copyright holder in the tag of an mp3 file or movie credits.

Seems like every copyright holder has a different definition of “attribution” which makes it a pain in the ass to seem compliant.   I imagine that’s probably why very few websites actually do it. And even proper attribution to the copyright holder is no protection from accusation of unfair use. But providing attribution (even if it isn’t a requirement of use) certainly makes you look better, both online and in a court of law.

For more on attribution, check out this news article on the Blog Herald discussing “How to Provide Attribution in the Blogging World” or, examples of Copyright Attibution for Creative Commons Media(pdf).

And while WordPress thoughtlessly strips links out of image captions, making it near impossible to attribute graphics, this kind soul has developed a working solution.

Commercial/Business use

Much of the “free” media is only free for non-commercial use. As you can imagine, the definition of “Commercial Use” has become a slippery topic. If you have Google Adwords running on your personal blog, is that “Commercial”? What if you use your blog as a focal point for adding readers to an e-mail list where you send out ‘exclusive offers’? What if you have a Paypal ‘Donate’ button at the bottom of your site?

Again, I recommend erring on the side of caution. If you are making money, then you should use media that allows for commercial use.

Editing, Remixing and Derivative Works

If you plan on editing a graphic, pic, sound file or video, make sure the usage license allows for derivative works, otherwise contact the media’s copyright holder for permission.

Other Resources

For more info on copyright and usage, visit (and specifically, this pdf on copyright basics: )

Another useful resource is Need help sending a Cease and Desist because someone is using your media without your permission? Need help because you got a Cease and Desist? Chilling Effects helps non-lawyers like you and me understand the nuts and bolts behind the new-online-legalness.

Conrad Zero

Yours Darkly, Conrad Zero