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picture usage, copyright, public domain, creative commons | Kinetic KnowledgeWe thought this post might be useful to folks who enjoy adding pictures to their sites & business blogs AND that might also appreciate good information on picture usage, copyright, public domain and the creative commons.

We Also Wrote A Supporting Post On The > Creative Commons License Choices

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to add more pictures to my pages and blog posts. We spend a lot of time here talking about how to satisfy the search engines and while they certainly index the images they can, we must also acknowledge the balance you need in order to satisfy humans. I mean I’m human… and I like pictures. Don’t you!?


For starters, we can’t just go grabbing any old picture from the web. I certainly don’t want anyone using my pictures any way they choose. Do you? Copyright law exists to prevent picture copying, including the possibility of civil suits with punitive damages. It exists to protect us all and [ultimately, despite the obvious temptation] that’s a good thing. A little history on the subject: apparently until 1976, creative works such as pictures were not protected by copyright law unless they had a published copyright. If it did not, it was ‘in the public domain.’ Changes to the law occurred in 1976 and again in ’88, effectively saying that all creative works were automatically copyrighted. The belief being that if there was no ‘copyright by default’ it might undermine the creators’ or an artists’ interest in sharing their work, thereby limiting the public’s’ access to art. In effect, protect art and you will foster and protect culture.

Copyright law is pretty simple now, actually. Any work or picture you or someone else creates is automatically copyrighted. No one really needs to do anything at all to receive protection under copyright law. While one might go to such ends as the Registrar of Copyrights in DC, there isn’t much preventing an owner from exercising rights when someone has blatantly copied their picture. Unless it is reckless / gross infringement, the popular opinion ( opinion only here ) is that a court won’t entertain suit unless a confirmed & official ‘ Cease & Desist ‘ letter has been ignored. 

Angry NJ ShoreNow, not to worry because there are good exceptions and opportunities for picture usage on the web including [obviously] those pictures you can take yourself, those you buy,those in the public domain and then those for use in the Creative Commons.

Public Domain

Public Domain describes any work that is not protected by copyright. For instance, photos are copyrighted unless they’ve given up their protection. Explicit permission is one example. Another is if you have a photo on the web, you notice other folks have been using it a bunch and you don’t really do anything to stop it… it’s then in the public domain. Regardless, if the picture is not ours or we don’t have permission the rule of thumb should probably be “don’t use it!”

FAIR WARNING: websites that say they have free or public domain pictures on offer may not be reputable… be careful to use good judgement. If the site doesn’t reveal an owner or a means to communicate with one it’s likely not reputable.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that has delivered a widely accepted means to share pictures. By using a Creative Commons license, which attaches itself to the work, a picture’s owner is allowing others’ usage. This exists outside standard copyright law, because ( while ‘Creative Commons’ has no legal ground ) it has been widely accepted by many to allow usage of their images… and that’s meaningful. Many people using offer usage via the Commons, which essentially defines various permission level standards.

Anyway, we hope this all helps and then I’ve included some resources:

Public Domain

Creative Commons


US Copyright