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What are photo licenses and what do they mean?

What are photo licenses and what do they mean?


Just because you found a picture online, via web search, doesn’t mean it’s legit to use it. And by that, we mean that you could be in serious trouble for violating copyrights. You got it right. A large number of images online are subjected to copyright and have some form of photo licenses. This means they have some form of restrictions that protect the authors and their rights. So, for you not to make any mistake when looking for images online we came up with this guide. Here, you will find all the basic photo licenses information to help you understand them better. And to know what to look for when browsing for your next image.

What are photo licenses?

Photo licenses are a form of a contract between the photographer and person who wants to use the photography. Just like in any line of work, it grants and restricts the rights of which an image can be used. When searching for free photos online, it’s good to know of these photo licenses, in order to avoid any misunderstanding.

Photo licenses types

Now, we’re not going to talk to you about commercial photo licenses, like for iStock and other similar businesses. We are guiding you through licenses regarding free photos you can find online (more on that in the next article). There are 2 most common types of photo licenses and we’ll explain them to you.

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Creative Commons

Creative Commons is one of the most familiar photo licenses services out there. They are an NGO that provides authors a way to share their work with the many rules of copyright. For example, you may grant that your work is to be shared freely without permission, for commercial or noncommercial purposes, and more. You can put restrictions like no remix or transformation of your work, not shareable without mentioning you as an author, etc. Creative Commons has 4 license terms/conditions and 6 different licenses to choose from:

photo licenses explanation

GNU Public License

Once known as an operating system and a collection of computer software, GNU Public license is now a free license provider, too. And not just for using software, but for any other kind of works, like photos. The photos with GNU Public license you can use, alter and share as fit – as long as you release them in the same manner as the previous artist did. For more details and all the permissions, visit GNU’s license list page.

There you have it. The next time you go for a free image lookout, you’ll know what those photo licenses mean and should you download them at all. And, for all of you who want to learn more on photo licensing, here’s a great dictionary with all the explanation.

As for the free public domain image sources – we’ll bring them to you in our next article. Until then, like and share this article if it was helpful, thanks.


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Ivana Cirkovic

Ivana is a Digital Marketing, PR and Social Media consultant with over nine years experience in the field. She is also a WordPress enthusiast and an active member of WordPress community who lives online almost 24/7. In love with Twitter, WP, photography and NYC.

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