Most bloggers are familiar with fair use or Creative Commons images. These are images that have little to no copyright restrictions. A popular way that bloggers find images online is to use Google Image Search and filter the results as “Labeled For Reuse With Modification”. This is actually a very risky way to obtain free images for your blog.
In fact, this is how I have found quite a few images for my own blogs. Historically, I’ve either used Google Image Search or I have gone to Wikimedia Commons to source what I thought were images I could use on my blog without any copyright infringement risks. I was wrong.
I’m hoping my experience can help save other bloggers from the same headache I have had to go through.
I Was Threatened With A Lawsuit Due To Using Creative Commons Images
Obviously, I am not an attorney, nor am I an expert in copyright law. Why is it obvious? Because I was sent a nasty letter by a law firm asking me to send them $2,000 for fair use images that I had on my blog from a few years ago. The letter threatened that if I didn’t send them $2,000 immediately, they would take me to court and seek $20,000 or more.
But how could this be?! I’ve always been so careful about using fair use images on my blogs! So, I began to dig further.
Law Firms Are Targeting Bloggers Using Fair Use Images
What I discovered was pretty shocking. There is an entire scheme going on with different law firms threatening lawsuits against both large websites and small-time bloggers. Here’s how the scheme works:
Step 1: A law firm works in conjunction with a private “photographer”. I put “photographer” in quotes because most of the images are computer generated and low-quality images.
Step 2: Label the images as Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0. This is the key to their whole scheme. By labeling their image as having a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 status, you can use the image for free, but you must give attribution for where you obtained the image.
Step 3: Flood Google image search with their fair use Creative Commons images, knowing that unsuspecting bloggers will use those images.
Step 4: Create a script that automatically scours the internet for bloggers using those images, and obtain the contact information for all websites using those images without attribution (technically in violation of copyright).
Step 5: Send scary-looking letters to those bloggers, demanding thousands of dollars in fees to settle or risk being sued for substantially higher amounts.
Step 6: Scare bloggers as much as possible into settling. Very few of these cases actually end up in court, as most bloggers decide to settle and not take the risk of being sued for potentially tens of thousands of dollars.
Step 7: Rinse and repeat, making perhaps millions of dollars per year.
These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and they are making a ton of money by extorting unsuspecting bloggers out of their own hard-earned money. It’s absolutely despicable and unethical, but this practice is gaining a lot of momentum due to the profitability.
VIDEO: How Creative Commons Licenses Work
Never Use Images On Your Blog From Google Images Or Wikimedia Commons
Google Images and even Wikimedia Commons can get you into quite a bit of trouble if you’re not very careful. I personally have stopped using images from either of those sources and highly recommend you do the same.
If you do decide to continue obtaining free fair use images for your blog from those sources, you need to be totally familiar with the requirements for using the images. Whenever you’re in doubt, do not use the images. If attribution is required, make sure you give the proper attribution no matter where the image is located on your blog. Even the media file itself can contain a link to just the image. If the attribution is not there, you could technically be in violation.
The 22 Best Places To Get Free Images For Your Blog Or Website
There are places you can obtain fiar use images for your blog with much lower risk. I have no affiliation with these services, but here are some places you can obtain free images for your website or blog.
This is another good resource to find free fair use images for your blog. They have thousands of free images available as well as a reasonably priced monthly membership plan that gives you access to 10 premium paid images per month.
Here is another reputable site that provides you with free images for your blog. Crediting images is not required and while they have some premium paid images, there are thousands of free images you can use.
This service has a great collection of HD quality images that are totally free and can be used across your blog. They do a good job categorizing images and their search function seems to work better than other services.
Shopify gets a ton of money and referral traffic from blog and website owners. They wanted to make it easier for people to have high-quality images to use on their blogs, so they created Burst, which hosts thousands of free images you can use on your blog.
This is another good service to find free images for your blog since they offer some more unique images. Many of these platforms have the same images, but Reshot seems to have some more unique images that you can’t find elsewhere.
This is a very unique service to obtain free blog images if you have a blog or website specifically about food. They offer a ton of very high-quality food images in just about any category you can imagine. A very good resource for blogs in the food niche.
Here is another niche-focused free image site. If your site focuses mostly on targeting a female audience, Style Stock could be a great resource. This free image service provides feminine blog images that can be used with very few restrictions.
ISO Republic is an up and coming free image service. They offer thousands of high definition quality images and even videos that you can use on your blog for free.
This site might not look as flashy as some of the corporate sites out there, but make no mistake, Jay Matri provides some truly amazing images that he allows people to use for any purpose, including on blogs and websites.
Life Of Pics was created by a creative agency for photographers to promote their images and get their name out there. They offer some of the highest quality free images for blogs out there.
Here’s a place you can get goofy and creative free images for your blog. While they have a lot of regular stock images that you can use, they seem to specialize in fun, goofy, and humorous images that can really get your site visitors attention.
No, this isn’t a stock market site! This site offers lots of free professional-grade photos that can be used for both personal and business use, including on your blog or website.
MMT adds new images to their collection every week. They proudly state on their homepage that you can use their images and videos for commercial use or for a blog or website, whether that blog or website is for personal or business use.
This is a very active free image site where new pictures and stock photos are added every single day. Their images do not require attribution and you can use them for both personal and business use with very few restrictions.
You can get free pictures for your blog with this service. They offer free blog pictures in a very wide array of different locations, services, and niches. There are thousands of pictures that require no payment, even when used commercially.
Stock Snap is a fast-growing free stock image service with hundreds of photos added every single week. This service proudly boasts that their images are free from copyright restrictions, so you can safely use them at no cost on your blog.
Canva is unique as their main business model is for their online photo editor, which I personally use. However, they also have thousands of images you can use completely free on your blog.
Flickr is likely a service you’ve heard of, but did you know they have free images you can use on your blog or website? Flickr has a creative commons and free section on their site, where most images are free from copyright restrictions.
This free image service is very unique as the images specialize in women of color. If you have a website that focuses on women of color, this could be a jackpot for you. However, some images do require attribution, so please read the licenses carefully.
Free stock photos often look overproduced and corporate. This service offers free blog images that look more natural. If you want images that look organic and real instead of staged and planned, Death to Stock could supply you with many images.
While this service has a lot of photos you need to pay for, they also have a pretty good collection of free photos that you can use on your blog. This is a good service to search if you can’t find your image elsewhere as their free images are often pretty unique.