Finding and understanding how to use free content for commercial projects is a constant need for digital marketers. We are always looking for assets like pictures or videos to express our message without trampling on other’s copyrights.
I’ve heard employees of my clients saying things like “Can’t we use anything we find online as it’s public domain now?” and “Can’t we use it if we just change it a little?”
The answer is maybe. And often no.
Here are some guides to finding and using content legally:
The best place to start with images, movies, music and media is Creative Commons. This non-profit organization created a standardized way to give the public permission to share and use creative work — on conditions the creator chooses.
Here’s a quick guide to different licenses:
|Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as you credit creator for the original creation.|
|Allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as you credit creator for the original creation and license your new creations under the identical terms.|
|This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the creator.|
|This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon a work non-commercially, and although your new works must also acknowledge the creator and be non-commercial, you don’t have to license your derivative works on the same terms.|
|This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon a work non-commercially, as long as you credit the creator and license your new creations under the identical terms.|
|This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing you to download a works and share them with others as long as you credit the creator, but you can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.|
Be aware that some logos seen in Creative Commons licensed images might have their own copyright such as this image which contains a Citroen and Apple computer logo.
- Unsplash – Free (do whatever you want) hi-resolution photos
- Icon Finder
- Every Stock Photo
- Free Pixels
Using Your Fans’ Creative
If you plan to run a contest or engage users to submit content such as images to you for your later use in a commercial project like creating a graphic for a website or inclusion in a television commercial, you should let them know.
Include in your Terms and Conditions language that will allow you to use their content. Here are some examples:
- Jurisdictional location (e.g. Hong Kong)
- Type of use (e.g. promotional material for print, digital, television)
- Age restrictions (generally 18 years and up)
- Personal information collection process and future use