Learning Technologies

Teaching Learning Technology Centre

Image Confusion – Where to Find Images That Don’t Infringe Copyright

March 24, 2015

"No Photos" sign

There is still much confusion since the passing of the most recent Copyright Modernization Act and a related Supreme Court ruling of 2012. RRC’s policies have been updated, and articles such as Michael Geist’s or Meera Nair’s give good analyses of how Canada has moved from a Fair Dealing to more of a Fair Use model. But note that Fair Dealing in Canada, even in education, “does not infringe copyright” only if the work or other subject-matter is not “commercially available”. Bottom line, you can’t just copy anything, even if it’s for educational purposes (see section 29.4[3]).

Clipart from openclipart.org

So, the question in educational circles often comes down to, “Where can I get images that I can freely post without fear of copyright infringement?

Some Websites such as openclipart.org offer images (left) that are completely in the  public domain. These can be freely shared, anytime and by anyone, without attribution or fear of copyright infringement. That’s a nice no-brainer.

Image of a moose by H. Bullock Webster [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By H. Bullock Webster [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

World Map by Michael Belew at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=1967&picture=world-map

World Map by Michael Belew at publicdomainpictures.net

Others, such as the amazing
Wikimedia Commons (right) or PublicDomainPictures.net (left) serve up both public domain and copyrighted images.

All content hosted on Wikimedia Commons may be freely reused subject to certain restrictions. PublicDomainPictures.net photos are pretty well completely unrestricted for non-commercial use. But even though public domain content may not legally require it, attribution is still recommended to give correct provenance.

Photo by RYAN MCGUIRE at http://www.gratisography.com/

by RYAN MCGUIRE at gratisography.com

There are of course many other digital images sources such as vecteezy.com and freepik.com for vector graphics, and unsplash.com, PhotoPin, and gratisography.com (and many others) for amazing free photos, each with their own licensing, often Creative Commons, or even Creative Commons Zero.

The Web has grown into a wonderful sharing environment that offers a wealth of digital artwork for absolutely free, made possible by countless generous contributors. As for those of us who are happy just to feast from this cornucopia, the least we can do is to give credit where credit is due.