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Finding and Using "Free" Clip Art and Stock Photos

Intro:  Hi, I'm Rose.  As the Web Services Specialist for SCLS, I spend my days building and maintaining websites for our member libraries, troubleshooting issues that come up with the WPLC Digital Book service, and providing tech support for the databases.  No surprise, but one of my favorite library blogs is LibrarianInBlack!

There are a lot of stock photography and clip art websites that advertise themselves as "free."  When you're searching for images to use in presentations, program fliers, and on web pages, how do you know if it's safe to save a copy of an image and use it for your project?  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Digital images are protected by copyright (see the U.S. Copyright Office website for the official summary of how long copyright endures and other FAQs).
  • Along with the image itself, look for licensing information or "terms of usage" that the creator has specified for that image.  If you can't find these, look for any broader legal information or terms of service provided by the web site.  If you still can't find anything, contact the image's creator to request permission to use the image.
  • Typical terms of usage tend to include restrictions like only using the image for noncommercial purposes, notifying the creator that the image is being used, explicitly giving the creator credit, or requesting written permission from the creator.  Be aware of what is required for the image you want to use.
  • Even Microsoft Clipart comes with specific use guidelines!

Here are some of my favorite websites for finding "free" (and low-hassle) photos and clip art:

Flickr "Creative Commons" Images (includes explanation of license types)

Morguefile (uses this "Free" license)

Stock.xchng (uses this license agreement, but creators can specify additional terms of use)

WPClipart (Legal Info)

For a bigger taste of "free" photo/clip art websites, check out Phil Bradley's list of websites for Stock and Royalty-Free Photographs and the list at Uncle Sam's Photos.


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Thanks for the links to the sites! One of my favorites is http://www.openclipart.org. According to the website: "This project aims to create an archive of user contributed clip art that can be freely used. All graphics submitted to the project should be placed into the Public Domain according to the statement by the Creative Commons." I usually "Browse Tags" (on the left) to find what I'm looking for.

Thanks for the tip -- it helps to have another clip art option!

Thank you! This is great information.

Here's another site I just ran across with 30 Free Image Resources:


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