Resources for Free Media
Free Media (Images, Sounds, Video, etc…)
- http://search.creativecommons.org/ – A search engine for media released under Creative Commons licensing. This does a sub-search of several other sites, including Flickr and Google Image Search.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain_image_resources This site lists many websites with content available in the Public Domain.
- http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page A database/wiki of media which are free to use. It also has a handy list of license types.
Free Pictures and Graphics:
- Morguefile.com/ Free images for use even in commercial applications, but you cannot claim ownership of, or resell the images.
- Flickr.com 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.
- Deviantart.com 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:
- The Freesound Project at Freesound.org is filled with free sound effects licensed through Creative Commons. See here for more info about usage rights.
- Jagged Spiral’s debut album, “Days From Evil” is free to download, and licensed through Creative Commons Music Sharing License. (Full Disclosure – We Rock!)
- Project Gutenberg has plenty of free e-books which are in the public domain.
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…
Those who want to know the truth about “Fair Use” can get it straight from the horse’s mouth here: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
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.
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.
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 Attribution 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.
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.
For more info on copyright and usage, visit http://www.copyright.gov
Another useful resource is https://lumendatabase.org/ which keeps a database of cease-and-desist letters regarding online content.