Need images for your marketing material? A look into Creative Commons licenses.

We all get there sometimes. You have a marketing piece such as an email, postcard or a landing page that has fantastic content but no supporting imagery. Yet. We’ve talked about where to download and purchase stock photography, but where can you find some free images?

 Ah, enter the Creative Commons licenses. These licenses can be applied to works protected by copyright law such as blogs, books, movies, music, websites, plays, articles – and yes, images. The owners of the work decide whether or not they will allow people to copy and distribute their work (provided the people give the owner credit).

Let’s take a look at the licenses under Creative Commons :

Attribution – Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivitave works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.

NonCommercial or Noncommercial – Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivitave works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.

No Derivative Works or NoDerivs – Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.

ShareAlike – Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work.

 What does all this mean when you just need a photograph or two for your marketing pieces? There are search engines that you can type in a couple keywords and browse the images that come back. When you find images that you like, be sure to inspect the license they hold – you cannot use an image for your business marketing, for instance, if the work has a “NonCommercial” license.

 After finding the right images for your piece, simply follow the license instructions which will at the very least require you to attribute the original author with:

 – Author’s name, screen name or user ID

 – Name or title of the work

– Specific Creative Commons license(s) the work is under

– Any copyright notices if applicable

You will be giving up a tiny bit of real estate in your marketing piece, but it may be worth it if you are sending out a new email blast each week, or have several images to compliment your newsletter. Now go out and search and support the generous creative community!

For more information about Creative Commons, please visit

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