Public Domain Images - What is allowed and what is not?

Public domain images are considered to be free of copyrights. Consequently, such images may be used freely for any application. But that is not true. Find out why in this article.

All images on Pixabay are released into the Public Domain under Creative Commons CC0. Therefore, the images can be modified and may be used freely for any application - also commercially and in printed format. Attribution in appreciated, but not required.

 

Exceptions

  • Identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive, unless they give their consent.
  • Do not suggest endorsement of products, services, etc. by depicted people or organizations. For example: do not use an image of NASA and place it adjacent to your own product in a way that suggests NASA would recommend the product.

In addition to these common sense regulations, there is more to know:

 

Model- and Property Release

Imagine, would you like to see your face in a TV spot without being asked for permission? No? Therefore, identifiable people must give their consent for public usage of their images. This is meant by the term "Model Release".

Privacy Rights


The same goes for private property: Would you like to see your private home displayed for example on an advertising column without prior notice? Nope? That's the reason for the so-called "Property Release". The object owner must give permission to use pictures of his/her belongings. But the Property Release also covers special cases, where designs or seemingly public buildings are protected. Examples are designs of new notebooks or mobile phones, as well as the Chrysler Building in New York or the London Eye. If you'd like to use pictures of that, the creators/owners must be asked for permission. Getty Images offers a large and highly useful database for looking up intellectual property release requirements: http://wiki.gettyimages.com/

However, there is a difference between editorial and commercial use. Model- and Property Releases are particularly important for commercial applications. If you are i.e. showing an image on your blog, it is non-commercial, editorial usage. In general, no release is required for such applications. Commercial use is loosely defined as all sorts of businesses, where you are actually selling something, or if you use images for advertising purposes. Take particularly care, when it comes to huge quantities, e.g. if you were to create an advertisement in a famous magazine or if you were to design a new iPhone cover.

Conclusion: It all may seem terribly complicated or risky, but actually, it isn't. Simply put yourself in the position of a depicted person or in the position of an owner or designer: Would you approve of the intended application without being asked? That is the question you should always ask yourself before using a public domain image without release.

 

Conclusions

Understand "public domain" as the permission to freely use (display, modify, print, etc.) an image without asking permission from the image author. However, it is still your responsibility, to make sure the depicted content (persons, logos, private property, etc.) is suitable for your application and does not infringe any rights.

 

Please read the FAQ or search our forum if you have still questions.

Comments

130 comments
Simon   1 month ago
You cannot put the copyright mark there in a way that suggests you're the copyright holder of the image in question. But concerning the whole website, that's no problem. The identifiable person question is answered thoroughly above :-/
sathsara14310   1 month ago
hello I'm new to pixabay. I'm creating a website and I wanted to ask can I use image with identifiable person as background. Also if used that kind of image can I put copyright sign on bottom of my website like lot of websites? (eg something like : Copyright © website name. All rights reserved.). It's commercial website. I really appreciate your website and your work. Thank you.
Wokandapix   1 month ago
Thanks!
tennexican   1 month ago
Wokanda, if you want to know how crazy...and irrational... some of this can get, consider the following: If you have an old photo of a family member that was taken by another family member, both of whom are dead, and you...also a member of the family...have possession of the only photo...some labs will refuse to make a copy without the written permission of both the person in the photo and the person who took it! When you tell them the people in question are dead...in some cases long dead...their reaction is that they understand that, but according to the law, they still need their written permission!!
Simon   1 month ago
As long as your mom is okay with it, it's no problem :-)
Wokandapix   1 month ago
I think pictures taken before 1989 that were not registered are public domain so I'm sure they are ok....but wanted to make sure.
Wokandapix   1 month ago
Hi. Double checking here...I uploaded two pics of myself as a child with my mom who gave me the pictures knowing I was going to use on social media and elsewhere. I did some editing prior to use. Is that ok?
Hans   1 month ago
@gymmom: Yes, that's ok @maril: For more information have a look at our faq
marilinaferra   1 month ago
Hola ! queria saber si las imagenes pueden ser utilizadas en vía publica, ya que leo que se pueden usar en editorial, porque necesitaría usarlas en ambas.
gymmom_027   1 month ago
I want to manipulate a nighttime image, adding a model image I purchased. I'd be happy to credit pixabay. It's for my ebook cover. Is this okay?
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Author: Simon
Message
Created: 3 years ago
Topics: About Pixabay, Photography