In the past, when I wanted to find photos or images to illustrate a blog post, my go-to default was Wikimedia Commons,  a database of more than 20 million user-contributed images that are free to copy and use according to the author’s specified license terms (often just requiring credit to the source). But now there are two new ways to get free images for your blog that can help you find a much wider selection and, in some cases, much higher quality images.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first of these new sources is Getty Images, a company that is in the business of selling creative and news stock photography. Earlier this month, it announced that it was making its collection of roughly 35 million images free for editorial, non-commercial use. Images are available through an embed feature — meaning you don’t copy and paste them, you embed their source code. Images on the Getty site now have an embed icon (</>) that you click to get the code. The embed code includes copyright information and a link back to licensing information on the Getty site.

Why would Getty give away what it is in business to sell? For Getty, it is an attempt to wrestle back control over the widespread pirating of its images. Craig Peters, Getty’s senior vice president of business development, explained in an interview with the British Journal of Photography:

First, there will be attribution around that image, and since we’re serving the image, we’re actually going to make sure there’s proper attribution. Second, all of the images will link back to our site and directly to the image’s details page. So anybody who has a valid commercial need for that image will be able to license it from our website. Third, since all the images are served by Getty Images, we’ll have access to the information on who is using and viewing that image and how, and we’ll reserve the right to utilise that data to the benefit of our business.

Given that the images are available only for non-commercial use, this raises the question of whether they may be used by lawyers who blog in order to promote their legal practices. In his interview with the British Journal of Photography, Peters said that Getty would not consider blogs that draw revenue from Google Ads to be commercial use. “What would limit that use,” he went on to say, “is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business.”

You should be aware that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has raised a red flag over Getty’s program. On one hand, the EFF praises Getty for making it easier for users to give proper attribution and a link. On the other, it notes that this is yet another intrusion on Web privacy, insofar as all these embedded images will allow Getty to collect information about users’ browsing history.

Google Images License Search

If that discourages you from using Getty’s images, there is another new way to find images that are available for reuse. In January, Google Images added a filter to its search results that allows users to find images based on their usage rights.

After entering your search quiery in Google Images, click on the “Search Tools” button at the top of the page and a selection appears for usage rights. Here you can select to filter results by any of the following:

  • Not filtered by license.
  • Labeled for reuse with modification.
  • Labeled for reuse.
  • Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification.
  • Labeled for noncommercial reuse.

In actuality, Google has offered license filtering for several years, but it was a hard-to-find feature. With this change, Google has made it easy for users to find images with open licenses.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.