Finding public domain or free royalty-free images
Like books, images are the unique expression of an idea, and thus protected by some form of copyright in most countries. It is important to consider all images as being copyrighted unless otherwise stated. Using copyrighted images is stealing, and if sued it will not only affect your reputation, but will also cost you financially. If you want to use images in your book without the hassle of seeking permission, the cost of paying for licenses or the worry of infringing copyright, you may be able to source public domain or FREE royalty-free images.
It depends what you’re looking for, but often there are images available online that are not subject to copyright. Free royalty-free and public domain images are available for free, and without copyright.
‘Public domain’ has been around far longer than ‘creative commons’, but these days most people managing collections that are in the public domain have organised for them to be dedicated to the public domain using the Creative Commons 0 license. This is not a formal legal distinction, rather a convenient way to communicate to the public that anyone can use the images.
Images that have a CC0 license have no copyright. It usually means that the photographer or artist dedicated their image to the public domain. In doing so, they wave all of their rights under copyright laws, to the image, and therefore there is no copyright on the image. Anyone can copy, change, and share the work for both personal and commercial purposes, without having to gain permission or provide attribution. The only moral considerations that apply are that the image must not be used to depict those identifiable in a bad light or imply that those depicted endorse brands unless they have given permission.
Your main concern when obtaining public domain images to use in your book will be how reliable the source was. Are the images really in the public domain, or was someone lying or ill-advised and falsely stating that they were? This is a real example for which PublishMyBook.Online gave advice—a particular animation company created some images that strongly resembled Toothless the dragon for one of their customers. Thankfully, Amanda Greenslade was the editor for the text of the person’s memoir and advised the author to remove the images. Even though the author paid the animation company to create the images, they were derivative works and would be an infringement of copyright. Who would be in trouble for this in a court of law? The author (a self-publisher) of the book.
When you go into self-publishing and marketing your books it is very important to respect copyright law.
So where do you find free royalty free and public domain images?
You can search via the Creative Commons website, who issue various licenses. Try looking on Wikipedia, as many of the images used on Wikipedia are released under a creative commons license of some kind, if not the CC0 1.0, it may be another where you can still use the image as long as you provide an attribution for the copyright owner.
There are hundreds of websites and ‘free image stores’ online that offer images under the CC0 1.0 or similar licenses:
- RGB stock
- Freeimages.com (previous sxc.hu and now owned by Getty Images, but still offering plenty of free images, mostly low res)
You can do an Advanced Google Image search (and the image search of other search engines) to search for images released under the license you require, as well as photography social network Flickr.
For more information please see this great article on image sourcing by our small-business arm Greenslade Creations. Our graphic designers are skilled in accessing public domain and free royalty-free images and can work with you to source the images you require for your book.
It is part of our terms of service, and any aggregation contracts we offer, that clients must have permission to use all the content they submit to us for their publishing project. It is their responsibility, as they are the copyright owner of the final product. If you have concerns about using images, please contact us for a publishing consultation.