Did Google Images just rock your world?

I never thought the day would come where I couldn’t use google images to easily find what I was looking for, but that day is now. Google recently made a change (or rather came to an agreement with Getty Images) that will attempt to better protect photographers images from getting stolen. You can read more about the change here. The problem I have isn’t that they made the change, but how deeply it effects my classroom. First, let me preface this by saying I always teach my students about copyright as it is absolutely critical to a Graphic Design class. My issue is, why did Google even have a drop down for “usage rights” if it really didn’t matter to begin with?

The question remains, what do I need to do to overcome this challenge and ensure my students are receiving the highest level of education possible. The answer is simple, and challenging at the same time. I could always start using another search engine such as bing, or yahoo, or any of the others, but it doesn’t really solve the problem. It simply puts a band aid on the underlying issue. This major issue is understanding copyright and what you can and cant use.

There is a term called public domain, and in education a misunderstood term called fair use. Public domain is, in a nutshell, just that. Your placing your item out there for anyone in the public to do what they want with it. In education, we have been hiding under “fair use”. This doesn’t just apply to images, but video and audio as well. Many teachers have been told, it’s ok to use video if it’s less than 30 seconds, or it’s ok to use something as long as it isn’t published. I was fortunate enough to have a lawyer come speak to my class for a couple hours a few years ago, and was surprised to learn how many of the things I thought were true that simply aren’t. You can’t take someone else’s work without giving credit, or having permission. I’m not here to get into the debate about what is and isn’t acceptable and considered fair use. I want to help you figure out how to get to images you can use.

First off, just search google for public domain images. When you do this you will come across many different websites that you can use. I’ll list those below, but before clicking away, it would also be beneficial for you to learn a little more about Creative Commons. Creative Commons was formed in the early 2000’s and it’s purpose is to provide a standardized way for individuals to license their work for various uses. While creative commons licensing doesn’t solve all issues, it is certainly a step in the right direction, and has built an incredible following.

Many of the public domain websites utilize creative commons licensing to distribute their images. Below are a couple of sites that I have utilized in the past:



I hope you found this information helpful, and remember, it is up to all of us to ensure students understand how they should or should not use images from the internet.