Beware Of How You Use "Free" Stock Images

Flickr is a good resource for 
CC licensed images (image by Protohiro)
In recent years Internet has been flooded with gallery-type sites offering all kind of free stock (raster and vector) images. To set up that kind of site can cost you less than $100 - you buy a (Word Press) theme and start downloading all kind of free images from other people's sites onto your own server. This is all fine if the owner of original images agree that you distribute their work with proper credit (and most of the time they do). The problem begins when you start to upload premium images from established stock sites like Shutterstock or Fotolia and offer that stuff for "free" without the consent of the author. If you are naive enough to believe that it is the site owner's responsibility to take care of copyright and that by downloading these "free" images you have no responsibility at all, you may end up in trouble.

Getty Images Asks $1500 For Small Image

Yep, you read it right. And they mean it. Just look at a website devoted to victims of Getty Images Settlement Letters and other related demand letter programs, most notably George P. Riddick,  owner of obscure vector clip art collection, harassing small mom and pop shops across USA. If you visit Extortion Letter forum it is full of stories where victims downloaded images from free websites or even people who bought images from stock sites. Many are in disbelief since they thought if they buy an image they can use it however they choose. Particular problem here are website designers that sell website templates with embedded stock images. When Getty, after many years, discovers that image, they find owner of the site liable, not the designer. 

So, beware how you use images you download from the Internet. Always check copyright information - if you are buying an image, check how you can use it before you buy it. If you are downloading it from free sites, you must also check copyright information from these sites and make sure the author gives you right to use it. If you are buying a website template or similar, always ask about images embedded with the product. Can you use them, where they come from, does the company have copyright to sell it to third party etc.

Here is a list of legitimate free web sites with original artwork where authors give permission to use images under different Creative Commons licenses or Public Domain.

Free Stock Photos

Public Domain Pictures - thousands of free stock photos 
Public Domain Photos - 5.000 public domain photos
Wikimedia - millions of images
Totally Free Images - 400.000+ public domain images 
GIMP Archive - mostly public domain images from government institutions. 
Flickr - millions of images. To find CC licensed images, use Advanced Search option.

Free Vectors

Vectorportal - thousands of free original vectors under CC license
Vecteezy - free vectors from thousands of contributors - huge collection of vectors from various contributors
Open Clip Art - huge library of free vectors
Qvectors - similar to Vecteezy