License to share
Although most artists are zealous in protecting their work, others are happy to share it free-
ly, without even a small licensing fee. Those who feel this way can become members of
Creative Commons (CC) (creativecommons.org). Then, they can publish all or some of their
work with licensing rights that range from unrestricted public domain to free usage only
under specific circumstances.
Unlike low-quality clip art, many of these images are in print-quality resolution, and can be
used in the same contexts in which you might use a regular stock photo. Unless they have
opted for public domain, the owners retain their copyright, and require explicit credit in any
project in which the work is used. Many owners allow the work to be used for profit, not just
for fun or portfolio. Other content owners allow you to edit and adapt the work, an option
that opens up a host of possibilities for the right project. For example, CC licensing can
solve problems for animators who need sound for their reels and want to post them on a
public site like YouTube. Such sites will block a project's soundtrack if it is found to contain
CC-licensed work can be found among the media on many sites, such as Flickr. CC also has
links to many works that have entered the public domain through copyright lapse. For
example, many such works are used to illustrate entries in Wikipedia, with links to down-
loadable copies of the art.
There are other sources for license-free work. A comprehensive list with thumbnail descrip-
tions can be found at meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:Public_domain_image_resources.
comp version probably has the stock source's watermark prominently displayed across
the image. If you don't want that as a distraction on your work, you will have to pay
at least the minimum cost of licensing to replace it with a clean image.
Bear in mind that this topic's discussion of copyright is geared toward the use
of these stock images in a personal project, or for a typical client project that you
would eventually want to display in your portfolio. For anything else, be sure to read
the fine print on usage. You'll discover that most of them explicitly prohibit using
their images on products for resale. You can't use them in a logo, or put them in any
form on a T-shirt or self-promotional piece that you might offer for sale on sites like
Collage involves not just the collection of images, but their careful extraction,
composition, and alteration. It doesn't seem fair that practicing a respected form of
art could get you in hot water. But even without the added complication of a digital
image, collage can run afoul of copyright laws.