If you’re making a newsletter, preparing a presentation, or writing up a report on a project, do you include photos, drawings, or music? Some well-chosen pictures or sounds can transform your ‘publication’, making it more user-friendly, more compelling, more memorable.
The problem is: how to find good pictures and sounds to include.
It’s not yours if you didn’t make it
There’s a huge amount of great media available on the Internet, but did you know that if you use it without permission you may be stealing? It can be theft if you even just copy a picture from a website and put it in your non-profit group’s emailed newsletter.
Where to find legal media for free
There are tons of places that provide free or very inexpensive images, sounds, music and even movies. You can download and use media from these sources with a clear conscience. Just be sure to check the terms of the licensing agreement, to make sure that what you’re planning to do is allowed.
Free images and video
Do you want photos, drawings, clip-art, illustrations, graphics, even video? Start with the millions of images on Flickr and iStockPhoto.
People who upload images to Flickr may retain copyright, or they may use some kind of Creative Commons licence that allows you to re-use their images at no charge. Images on iStockPhoto cost as little as US$1 each.
For example, a search on Flickr for “creative commons wellington new zealand” turned up a photo of the old wooden building near the Beehive (flickr.com/photos/wm_archiv/2795774282). The Creative Commons licence on that photo allows you to use the picture provided you include an attribution to the photographer.
Using other photos on Flickr may require permission. The official FAQ tells you how to go about contacting the photographer. Visit flickr.com/help/general/#147 for information.
A search on iStockPhoto for ‘old wooden building’ turned up more than 5,000 results. An 850 * 560 pixel version of one image I liked would have cost me around US$3 and I could publish that image up to 500,000 times.
Free and low-cost music
Magnatune offers music for use on the web, in slideshows, for movies, and for other purposes. I checked the cost to license one track for use for 1 month in an in-house slideshow. It cost US$30. Other tracks or other uses may cost more or less.
A Google search on ‘royalty-free music loops’ brought up numerous results. For example, RoyaltyFreeMusic.com allows free use of the music it lists if it’s for personal or not-for-profit use.
Also look at these sites:
Whichever site you use as the source of media for your project, be sure to read the licensing terms carefully.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, February 2009. This article has been modified for publication here.