Are you looking for images you can use without having to worry about copyright? Most images you can find on the internet will have some kind of copyright, even if there is nothing to indicate it. It’s important to check before using an image who the copyright holder is, and if you are allowed to use it for your purposes.
To be on the safe side, you can use images that are in the public domain, or listed with a creative commons zero (CC0) licence, which means the copyright holder has waived all rights over their reuse. You can copy or modify the work for personal or commercial purposes and attribution is not required. Other licenses may require an attribution or a link back to the original image, so be sure to check.
Remember you are responsible for checking the copyright of any image you use! If you are not sure if you can use it, always ask the permission of whoever owns the copyright.
If you are looking to make a collage using images, there is a useful factsheet on DACs, explaining how copyright should be viewed.
Some examples of places to search for image sources to use freely include:
- ArtUK Art UK is the online home for every public art collection in the UK. Use the Menu and search for an artist. It is then possible to refine the search results by ‘Licence’ to images with Open or Creative Commons Licences.
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Picture Library Out-of-copyright collections are freely available under a Creative Commons CC0 licence.
- British Library A catalogue of book illustrations, maps and manuscripts found on Flickr.com. The copyright status is given below each image.
- National Gallery Search the collection of over 2,600 paintings. Mainly it is the out of copyright images that are made available for re-use under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND licence.
- Science Museum All collection data and images, where possible, are made available under a Creative Commons licence.
- Tate Mainly the out of copyright images are made available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND licence. It is possible to refine a search to just those images with Creative Commons licences.
- Wellcome Trust Thousands of freely licensed digital books, artworks photos and images of historical library materials and museum objects.
- Biodiversity Heritage Library flikr The world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives.
- Raw Pixel Has many copyright free images, including a good section of high quality public domain images by renown artists available to download.
Some major global art galleries and museums are beginning to make parts of, or their whole collections available via the CC0 licence.
- New York Met
- Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
- Statens Museum for Kunst/National Gallery of Denmark
- Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
The image below is by Karl Blossfeldt, on Raw pixel. Find out more about him on the Whitechapel gallery website, who had an exhibition of his work in 2014.
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