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Use shared images, then share alike

February 27, 2013

Image by Casey Martin

When creating presentations or other visuals that will be shared with the public, it’s important to pay close attention to copyright laws. Some people use a Google image search to find raw materials, but that normally doesn’t tell you the name of an image’s creator or its licensing status.

Several websites provide downloadable images with Creative Commons licenses or similar arrangements. These sites normally require attribution, meaning that if you use an image  you have to say who created the original. Most often you are only allowed to make non-commercial use of the material (only fair — you didn’t have to pay for it!). What’s not as obvious is that new visuals you create with free images should, in turn, be provided to others for free. “Share alike” means that after you use a Creative Commons licensed image, you don’t turn around and restrict use of what you created by labeling it “All Rights Reserved.”

by-nc-saRight now, students in my multimedia class are hard at work on an image portfolio project. They’re using PhotoShop to create original visuals based on existing images. I am very picky about where the students’ raw materials come from (see the list below). The image at the beginning of this post is a student-created work from a previous class. If you click it and view the Flickr page, you’ll see that the student included detailed source information. His image also has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Recommended sources for usable images

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