If you previously used Creative Commons (CC) Search, you may know that it was picked up by the WordPress.org project last year to continue its development. Here’s the official Creative Commons announcement. As of late last year, CC Search relaunched on WordPress.org and was rebranded as Openverse.
Free to Use Images
WordPress.com users have enjoyed the integration of Pexel’s Free Photo Library. Pexel images can illustrate our pages and posts or be used as a Featured image without attribution, as well as be modified and used commercially.
Openverse? Read the fine print first
Openverse, which was recently integrated in the WordPress Editor, also has free to use photos, but it has one major difference. Openverse is a search engine of images and audio that are available under Creative Commons licensing, under CC0 or in the public domain, and are also free to use, but may be subject to certain limitations depending on license.
When inserting a new image from Openverse in your Editor, the modal window that opens can’t display the image license, although Staff have advised this is being worked on at WordPress.org. For now, the image license can only be seen after the fact, either as the caption in the inserted image or in the Media Library image details. Otherwise, bupkis.
This is in contrast to the search results in the Openverse utility itself on WordPress.org, where the license is visible as a sticker when hovering one’s cursor over the image.
What are CC licenses and how can I use them?
“CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses. Others who want to reserve all of their rights under copyright law should not use CC licenses.”1
If you are not familiar with Public Domain, CC0 and the six Creative Common’s licenses, here’s a run down from the rights owner’s viewpoint, from the least restrictive at the top to the most restrictive at the bottom.
- PD: Public Domain-A work may be part of the public domain because the applicable term of copyright has expired, because the rights holder surrendered copyright in the work with a tool like CC0, or because the work did not meet the applicable standards for copyrightability.2
- CC0: also a Public Domain dedication which indicates you waive all your copyright and related rights in your works to the fullest extent allowed by law.3
- CC BY: This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.4
- CC BY-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.4
- CC BY-NC: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.4
- CC BY-NC-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.4
- CC BY-ND: This license lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.4
- CC BY-NC-ND: This CC license is the most restrictive, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.4
- Copyright © All Rights Reserved: The rights owner retains all rights over their work, including the right to reproduce, distribute, display, and make adaptations.5
The Creative Commons FAQ explores licensing in detail for both licensors and licensees, including sections discussing copyright and fair use of both CC and copyrighted materials. While it is quite lengthy, I highly recommend taking the time to read it and bookmark it.
What does this mean for your WordPress.com site?
When choosing an image from Openverse keep in mind that it may require attribution (CC BY) and may have other limitations defined by the rights owner on how the image can be used (Non-Commercial, No Derivatives, Share Alike).
For ease of identifying which license is in use on any Openverse image, for now I’d recommend searching and downloading directly using the Openverse utility on WordPress.org and not from the modal window in our Editor, at least until the modal window in the Editor has the ability to display the license sticker. Additionally, when you search only images on the Openverse utility, you’ll have many more search options available than those currently in the modal window, including sorting by image orientation, something that’s been on my wish list for Pexels since forever.
However, if you’d still prefer to use the modal window in the Editor, insert the image and then check the license in the caption or head to your Media Library to view the image details if the image is a Featured image.
Like Pexels, any image you insert via Openverse will be added to your site’s Media Library and count against your storage quota. Of course, that is also true of any image you download from the Openverse utility and then upload to your Media Library. The advantage to downloading the image from the source is that it gives you the opportunity to resize and optimize it prior to uploading to your Media Library, something that is more important than ever.
Other sources of Free To Use Media
WordPress.com has created a resource page of the most useful rights-free image collections currently available, many of which are already included in Openverse’s search. Openverse itself links to other resources at the bottom of the search results page. Being a responsible blogger, I have no doubt you’ll read the fine print first before using any of them on your site.
Contributing your own images
If you are an avid photographer who has lots of quality photos taking up space on your hard disk and are willing to share your images under CC0, consider submitting your images to Pexels or the currently in-the-works, but growing, WordPress Photo Library.
As always, the information in this post is correct as of publication date. Changes are inevitable.