Compliance Web

Getting Nice Pictures — Where From, If Not Steal?

wooden doll loaded with stones

I love ZEN pre­sen­ta­tions. For that, you need pic­tures. Many pic­tures. Good pic­tures. For­tu­nate­ly, it is tech­ni­cal­ly easy to inte­grate pho­tos from the inter­net into your own site. What is chal­leng­ing, how­ev­er, is get­ting nice pic­tures legal­ly.

[ en | de ]


  • First, use image data­bas­es whose pic­tures are released under the terms of the CC0 license.1 E.g. pxhere2 or open­cli­part.3
  • Then eval­u­ate image data­bas­es whose pic­tures have been pub­lished under any dif­fer­ent Cre­ative Com­mons license. E.g. Wiki­me­dia4, or
  • But avoid images that are licensed under a CC-??-NC-??5 license.6
  • And metic­u­lous­ly ful­fill the oth­er con­di­tions, such as attri­bu­tion. A good place to do that is a page with image cred­its.
  • Final­ly, be care­ful if you use an image data­base that dis­trib­utes its images under its own license, which is equiv­a­lent to a CC0 license, but excludes cer­tain uses after all.7. E.g. pex­el8, unsplash9, or pix­abay10)
  • Avoid, if pos­si­ble, image data­bas­es that mix com­mer­cial paid images with free.11 E.g. freep­ho­tos or the noun­pro­ject
  • Def­i­nite­ly avoid meta image data­bas­es in any case.12


copyright law
Images, pho­tos, and logos are also sub­ject to copy­right law. Often also of the trade­mark law. With­out the pho­tog­ra­ph­er or own­er grant­i­ng us the rights of use, we are not allowed to use their pho­tographs and logos. More­over, even what is pic­tured can lim­it our exploita­tion — while the free­dom of art expands our scope. How does a user get out of this ‘snake pit’ unscathed?

On the first attempt, it seems easy. After all, most of the time, the author will only want to ‘illus­trate’ her posts. But if she has linked a web store or con­sult­ing offer to her site, she earns mon­ey indi­rect­ly with the images. And thus she uses the images com­mer­cial­ly. So again the ques­tion is, what can she do?

I have out­lined my way above. Two addi­tions to this:

  • When it comes to ‘logos’, I search the web pres­ence of the logo own­ers. Often they tell us explic­it­ly what we can and can­not do with their logos. And this is even true for non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, like the OSI((for logo usage cf. or those of the Gimp((for logo usage cf.
  • When it comes to what is pic­tured, I fol­low two rules of thumb:
    • Be care­ful with peo­ple and prod­ucts depict­ed — they’d rather not.
    • Cau­tion with unknown build­ings

And in what way is this …

… part of the over­ar­ch­ing top­ic FOSS Com­pli­ance? For ful­fill­ing the require­ments of FOSS licens­es, we have to con­sid­er spe­cif­ic indi­vid­ual cas­es as well as side effects — for soft­ware, pic­tures, or doc­u­ments. We should unhide trends and write guide­lines. Above all, how­ev­er, we must dri­ve for­ward the automa­tion of license ful­fill­ment, make our licens­ing knowl­edge freely avail­able, cast it into small­er tools, and bring it into larg­er sys­tems: Because FOSS thrives on free­dom through license ful­fill­ment, large and small. That’s what also this arti­cle is about.

  1. We’re allowed to use those for no con­sid­er­a­tion, after all. []
  2. for licens­ing see []
  3. for licens­ing cf. []
  4. for licens­ing cf. []
  5. for the lay­er mod­el of CC licens­es, see []
  6. Because legal­ly even the sim­plest blog can still be inter­pret­ed as a com­mer­cial enter­prise. []
  7. Chal­leng­ing­ly, these data­bas­es often allow com­mer­cial use, but at the same time pro­hib­it the sale of the images, even in print, or their incor­po­ra­tion into oth­er data­bas­es []
  8. for licens­ing cf. []
  9. for licens­ing cf. []
  10. for licens­ing cf. []
  11. Too great the risk that you pick a non-free image. []
  12. What exact­ly applies here is very hard to track there. []
To top