When you need that perfect picture to go with your killer blog post, to complement your small business website, or to jazz up your newest sales and marketing materials, it is tempting to head over to Google or Bing to do an image search and grab something that fits the bill. However, when you do that you need to be very careful that you are using a public domain image—one that you don’t need to pay for, and one that you can use freely and modify without special permission and without attribution.

After all, the last thing you want to do is invest time and money on a marketing piece, and then receive a cease and desist order for copyright infringement that will require you to scrap the whole thing and start over. You also probably don’t want to mar your marketing materials by including attribution for licensed images. And, as a general principle stealing other people’s work is unethical and just bad business.

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So, how do you get great public domain images that are free to use and modify without attribution? You could turn to a Google image search, and filter for this type of image.

Here’s an example for each, using a search for “puppy”:

In Google Image Search, select “Tools” then under “Usage Rights” select “Labeled for reuse with modification,” as shown below.

Once you see an image you would like to use, it is important that you visit the page on which the image lives (using the “Visit Page” button) to make sure that it actually is a free to use public domain image. In many cases you’ll find that the image is free to use, but only with attribution (you need to give credit to the owner, and/or link back to the owner), and in some cases you can’t tell from the page whether the image is ok to use or not. Google is slightly better than Bing at getting the free to use labeling right, but in many cases it can be hard to know for sure.

So, don’t take chances with your next marketing project. Make sure you’re using free public domain images that will help promote your s all business, not get it into copyright hot water.

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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  • Hi, Also check out http://www.goodfreephotos.com for thousands of free public domain photos, especially travel photos. Appreciate it if you could add it to your list. Thanks.

  • Great article Lisa,

    I recently started http://fancycrave.com/ as a side project a few months ago. The site consists of completely free stock photos all taken by me and other talented photographers. It’s basically a collection of images from my travels around South East Asia, North America, and South America (soon). My aim for these photos is to help designers and creative alike. People can use these images for whatever purpose they please.

    I keep things very simple. I list the photo, its tags, the author, and the download link. I don’t make people jump through any hoop, like signing up for an email newsletter or making them “Like” my facebook page.

    I also started to publish niche specific photo packs all for free.

    I hope you and others will find it valuable. I just want to contribute back to the wonderful blogging, design, marketing, and creative community. If you see it fit, I’d be very grateful if you could add Fancycrave to this list.


  • Hi,

    Very educational report.

    Please also have a look at https: //www.blogpiks.com for a huge number of distinctive graphics, free for any use. I concentrate on pictures for blogs and articles particularly technology, business, education and backgrounds.

    If you could add my site to your list of sites, I appreciate it.