Do Free Images Have Copyright?

Do free images have copyright

Copying or reusing someone else’s work without permission can be considered copyright infringement. This can include images found on sites like Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay.

Royalty free photos require compensation to the image owner or stock agency every time an image is used. That is why they typically only allow commercial use with certain restrictions.


If you reproduce, publish or distribute a copyrighted work without permission or a license from the copyright owner, you’re committing a legal offense – namely, copyright infringement. This can lead to expensive litigation, so it’s important to understand how to source images legally and avoid any unnecessary legal pitfalls.

The internet is awash with free images that you can use for your personal or professional projects. These free photos are usually curated by websites that specialize in offering them, such as Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels. However, many of these sites do not clarify whether their images are truly royalty free or subject to other restrictions. It’s always best to check the image’s metadata or to contact the copyright owner for more information before using it.

There are a few instances in which a work can be considered ‘copyright free,’ but it is rare to find one that does not have any restrictions. These include works that have been released into the public domain and those with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. ‘Copyright free’ images do not require attribution to the photographer or stock photo site, but they must still be used with care.

Royalty-free images are those that do not require a licensing fee for commercial or editorial use. Often, they may also not be required to have a model or property release. They might be subject to other conditions, like a limitation on how long they can be used, or they may only be available for online use.

In contrast, rights-managed images can be licensed for a fee that is determined by the image’s creator. These photographs may be subject to other restrictions, such as platform-based limitations regarding commercial or editorial use, and may require crediting the photographer or image site.

Establishes damages for copyright infringement vary from country to country, but in general the owner of the work can be awarded up to $150,000 per infringement. It is possible to receive more if the infringement was particularly serious or willful. There are also certain circumstances in which the image owner can waive their rights, allowing you to use the photograph.

Public Domain

Whenever you use an image online, it’s important to know whether the work is in the public domain or not. This can affect how the image is used and even if you need to credit the creator. The public domain is a large category of works that are no longer protected by copyright law. In general, this includes works that were created before January 1st, 1923. However, some works still have a copyright that expires in the future, or a different type of copyright protection (such as “limited use”).

The exact definition of what is in the public domain can be tricky to determine, since it depends on both U.S. and international copyright law. This article provides some insight into when content can be considered to be in the public domain, from both US and international perspectives.

There are many sites where you can find free images. The most popular are Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay. These websites offer images that are free to use for both personal and commercial purposes, with the requirement that you provide attribution if possible. Some sites also have restrictions on how the images can be used, such as not being able to make significant changes or using them for commercial purposes.

Another option is to use searchable image databases, such as Google Images. This site has a filter called “usage rights” that allows you to filter the results by various Creative Commons licenses. This will help you narrow down the results to those that can be used for free with some sort of attribution.

If you are unsure about whether an image is copyright-free, it’s always best to ask the image creator for permission. It’s not hard to do, and it will save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Copyright infringement can be very expensive, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. If you can’t get permission, try to come up with alternative ways of sourcing your visual content, such as creating your own images or finding other sources of royalty-free images. If you do run into trouble, it’s a good idea to hire a copyright lawyer to help you navigate the legal minefield.

Creative Commons

The good news is that there are plenty of places to find free images on the internet. The key is to understand what license an image has and any restrictions that may be attached to it. Depending on the type of CC license an image has, you may be required to give credit to the creator or you may be prohibited from making modifications to the image. If you don’t follow the terms of a photo’s license, the image creator could take legal action against you, even if you weren’t aware that the use was unauthorized.

The best way to avoid this is to only use photos that are truly royalty-free or have a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. While this isn’t always possible, the majority of stock photo websites that offer a wide range of image sizes have these licenses and provide clear instructions as to how you can use their images.

Another option is to find a website that offers free high-resolution photos. This includes sites like Unsplash, which started as a small free photo Tumblr project and has now grown into one of the largest free photo websites on the web. Another site that offers free images is Burst, which also has a large library of high-quality images.

Many other image databases offer a variety of free photos, including the popular Shutterstock. However, they often require a paid subscription to access the full library of royalty-free images. These sites also often include restrictions on how and where you can use their images, which can be a pain.

Using images that aren’t royalty-free or CC0 can result in fines and lawsuits, which is why it’s best to only use images that you either own or have permission to use. If you are unsure of the status of an image, contact the photo creator directly to ask.

If you are unable to obtain permission to use an image, you can create your own using the right tools and techniques. Alternatively, you can look for images that are in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license, but this can be time-consuming.


Unless you’re using images in the public domain, it’s always best to check the license agreement on any image you plan to use. Copyrighted images are protected by copyright laws, and if you reproduce or publish them without the express permission or a valid license from the copyright owner, you can be sued for copyright infringement. If you’re found guilty of infringement, the amount of damages you pay depends on how much money you earned from the unauthorized usage and whether or not it was done on purpose (the former is known as “willful infringement”).

Many stock image sites offer free images with different license agreements, so you’ll want to read each one’s terms and conditions carefully to understand exactly how the images can be used. Many of the sites require that you give a photo credit when you use them, and some sites may not allow you to use photos with trademarked items.

If you’re looking for images to help you with a specific project, be sure to search by license type in the site’s image library. You can find options like “Public Domain” and “Royalty Free” to narrow down your search.

A royalty-free (RF) image license is the most common, and you’ll see it used on a variety of online image-based websites. RF images typically have a fee structure that allows you to purchase a single license for multiple uses over the course of a year, while rights-managed (RM) images generally need to be negotiated on an individual basis with the image creator and usually include a cost, restrictions on usage types, length of use, and other terms.

It’s very rare for a work to be considered ‘copyright free,’ so it’s important to confirm that the copyrights on any image you are considering using have been cleared before you make any purchases or start using them in your creative projects. Otherwise, you could risk infringing the copyrights of the image creator and face legal action. The penalties for copyright infringement vary by country, but they can be significant.

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