Fair use and free images on the internet

Images have become an essential component of news on the Internet. But what should you do if you have copy but no images?
Depending on your purposes, there are many free and legal options for using images from the Internet.

Advanced image search

Google advanced image search has settings that allow you to limit searches by usage rights. To be safe, you should double-check the licence of content you find on Google to make sure you can use it. Images found using a routine Google search are probably not free to use, and you should not use them without permission from the creator.

Creative Commons

A great way to find images is through Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to realizing the full potential of the Internet. They promote licenses under which content creators allow “others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work, at least non-commercially,” while retaining copyright. The US affiliate of Creative Commons has a search tool for images, music, video and other media available for use

Getty Images embed

This recently launched feature allows you to use some of Getty’s images on websites, blogs and other social media. According to Getty Images’ terms of use page, only some of their images will be available for embed, the available images may change, and Getty reserves the right to advertize on or otherwize monitize the embedable viewer.

Additionally, their terms of use page states: “You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.”

Government images

The U.S. government has amassed enormous troves of photos and images, many of which are in the public domain. Here is a list of government image sets grouped by topic. All U.S. government work, or work created by an officer or employee of the government as part of his or her official duties, is free from copyright restrictions. The work may be freely copied, modified, performed, distributed or displayed. There are, of course, exceptions: government logos, work produced by state or local governments, work prepared by independent contractors, etc. Take a look at this page on copyright for more information.