Since I started this blog, or even started thinking about starting this blog, I’ve had many people ask me about where to find free content that they can use on their blogs and websites without having to worry about legal liability. This is a legitimate concern – I know several people who have received angry emails from copyright owners – and even threats of being sued – after they used a copyrighted image that they found on a website. You’ve got to be careful. That’s what this post is all about. It’s the post you’ve been waiting for! And it’s a mammoth one!
Below I’ve listed just some of the places that you can find openly licensed content – images, photographs, music, sound files, video files and text – that you can use legally and for free. If you missed my post explaining what Creative Commons licences are, make sure you track back and read it first because you’ll need that information to properly understand this post.
Flickr is a photo-sharing website that gives people the option to share their uploaded images under a Creative Commons licence. It then allows users to search through photos for only those images they can use legally and for free. I love it. I source nearly all of the images I use on this site and that I share on Facebook from Flickr. Here’s how you can do it too –
Step one: On the Flickr homepage you can enter your search term in the box on the top right. For illustration, I’ve entered ‘tree’.
Step two: You will be taken to an image results page. There, you can select from a drop-down menu to only search Creative Commons licensed photos.
Step three: Your search results will be updated, and you can click through to the photos you like. Here’s one that I’ve selected. You can see the attribution information at the bottom left of the image and the licence information (with a link through to the full terms) at the bottom right. Don’t forget to follow the attribution requirements and other licence requirements when you use the image.
You can also find CC-licensed images using a basic Google search.
Step one: Enter your search term and select the images tab.
Step two: Click on the little cog wheel symbol on the right hand side of the page. A drop-down list will appear. Select ‘Advanced search’.
Step three: This will take you through to another page with more search options. Go to the ‘usage rights’ option and select the licence terms that you need.
Hint: You can also do this with a normal Google search to find CC-licensed text.
There are also some websites that provide access to free, public domain content. ‘Public domain’ generally means that the content is not protected by copyright, usually because the copyright term has expired. This means that you can use the content for free however you like.
Pixabay – public domain images (mostly photographs)
Open Clip Art – free, public domain clip art files
There are some absolutely wonderful legal sources of music and sound files online. Here’s just a sample:
ccMixter is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licences. For example, this track is called “Late Nigtht Tribe” by earritation and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Licence (CC BY-NC). It’s ambient music with a bit of a Massive Attack vibe. It’s pretty cool.
Jamendo – this is a music website where you can stream and download music files for free. Everything is licensed under Creative Commons licences for non-commercial use. It is truly comprehensive too – Jamendo currently features over 35,000 independent artists and is the largest royalty-free music catalogue in the world. Jamendo also offers affordable options for commercial use – what it calls its “Jamendo PRO licence” – for people who want to use the music in advertising, TV, films or other commercial multimedia projects.
Soundcloud – this is a social sound platform where people can record and upload sounds and share them privately with friends or publicly to blogs, websites and other social media. It’s a little bit like Spotify for sounds. Not everything on Soundcloud is licensed under Creative Commons but, like Flickr, you can search for CC-licensed content. Soundcloud provide a handy little image file showing you how to this, which I’ve reproduced here:
These are just three of the larger sources for openly licensed music and sound files. You can find more CC music resources listed here.
Video files can be CC-licensed too!
Vimeo allows you to search for licensed content, in two easy steps : –
Step one: Enter your search term and run the search. Then click on the ‘Advanced Filters’ menu option on the right.
Step two: Select the licence terms you need. It’s that easy!
Vimeo also runs a music store where you can also filter music tracks by licence terms.
YouTube, the most popular video sharing website, also has a Creative Commons filter. Below, I’ve searched for a healthy kale recipe to demonstrate how to find CC licensed videos:
Step one: Enter search term. Click on the ‘Filters’ drop down menu.
Step two: Select the Creative Commons option. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t appear to allow you to search by licence terms, so you will need to check the CC-licensed results yourself to make sure you’re allowed the make the uses you want (such as commercial uses or modifications).
So for example, I’ve clicked through to a kale salad recipe. You can see here that this is licensed under CC BY.
For the history buffs, in 2012 the ABC released some of its archival news footage under CC licences. The short video files are available here. They include clips such as an ABC reporter explaining how ATMs work upon their introduction to Australia, Jean Shrimpton at the Melbourne Cup and a news report on the release of Lindy Chamberlain from prison upon the discovery of new evidence relating to her missing baby girl.
Did you know that all of the content on Wikipedia is either in the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC BY SA) licence? Additionally, the Wikimedia Commons is a database of freely useable media files (images, sounds and video) that are public domain or licensed under Creative Commons.
I hope you enjoy exploring all these wonderful sources of free and legal content! What a treasure trove!
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