View Full Version : Public domain images

03-24-2005, 01:55 PM
I saw a man selling on Ebay a set of bikini pictures which he says that are in public domain. I'm interested in creating a screensaver for PalmOS (which I would sell for $9.99 on Handango or some other site) and offer for free sets of these pictures which could used with this screensaver. I know that this is rather loosely connected with webmastering, but it touches very similar problems as in creating a website with these pics, so I'm posting it here.

I'm quite ignorant when it comes to copyright problems, so I'd like to seek your opinions on this project. What if it turns out that some pictures are not in public domain but someone holds copyright to them? I'm not selling the pictures themselves, but a program that views them. So would it be just right what I removed questioned pictures and that would be all, or could I get into more trouble? I'm just not sure what can and what cannot be done with public domain photos, and what to do if I believe in good faith that a picture is in public domain, but it turns out that it's not.

03-24-2005, 02:40 PM
id think its very unlikely that anyone half famous having their picture taken in a bikini would be public domain...

03-24-2005, 03:12 PM
Better not chance it. You would absolutley be accountable if it the owner came looking for damages and my dollar says that bikini images are not public domain.

You are looking for images that can be used in a commercial application and resold. These are normally expensive. Most stock photo sites have terms that prohibit this reselling but allow one-time publication on a website for example.

I have found sources for truly free images but these are hard to come by. An example is www.ag0ny.com where the owner of the site has taken the photos and granted permission for any reuse, commercail or otherwise right on his home page. If you have a low buget then start scouring the web for these gems.

03-24-2005, 04:08 PM
Fantastic question. THanks for asking :)

Ditto :)

You want a "derritive work" which must be preapproved in a given stock photo shops licensing agreament. Even a tweak in Photoshop and or a combo of images and or a screen saver fall into this category. ALL must be licensed and I guarnatee you that 99% of every collection which is sold for a small price of pennjes per image is in fact "stolen" and IMHO, the seller belongs in jail!

Some other thoughts:

1. Carefully read our own thread for more help at:


A single image which was stolen cost one of our members over 3K.

2. See another reasonably pirced solution at:


HOWEVER, you need specific approval for your intended use. If it's not on the site then don't do it.

3. I exstracted some text from these CD babe collections. NONE of which is adequate. ALL of which lacks any semblence to what is really needed to properly license "images"


1. Notice To eBay Staff or Anyone Concerned:
No trademark or copyright laws have been violated.

NOTE TO EBAY: this cd includes no full frontal nudity, only women with bikinis and thongs are included on this CD and so this does not violate any ebay listing policies. Additionally this is a personal compilation from public sites within the public domain and no image copyrights have been breached in any way (we can provide a copy of the CD upon request if required). It is owned and exclusively distributed by *hypnosis* and the item and description is to be logged with ebay Vero programme.

---> Baloney! Prove and show me the model release and the photographers release/license. Finding stuff on the net does not, never has, and never will mean it's properly licensed and complies with the DMCA. THus I conclude that 99% of these cheapo images are not and never have been PD.

You will also hear the term "fair use" and that discussion could go on for years. ! IN the specific case we are discussing and your intended use and not other circumstances "fair use" dose not and will never apply.

HTH and thanks so much for a really great question :)

03-25-2005, 01:19 AM
Michau, thanks for asking. It is unlikely something is in the public domain unless it was created before 1927. I don' tthink they had bikinis then :)

And yes a model release as well as the photographers releases are required to be properly licensed and these must be obtained in writing.

Buyer beware. Although it is possible to get RF (royalty free) images for under $10 each, their use is severely limited. I think that photos.com (http://photos.com) offers the best terms, but read the fine print. Even at photos.com you "may not redistribute or sell the content" and you are never allowed to use RF images as content on a website, e-greetings, or send-a-friend pages. these uses are in essense distributions.

03-25-2005, 02:04 AM
While this won't be the perfect solution for every situation, this link provides information that can be of help to some in certain situations involving the using of creative works http://www.geekvillage.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=151871#post151871

03-25-2005, 09:37 AM
Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) has worked long and hard to offer a "flexible copyright for creative work". Today Yahoo! announced Creative Commons Search (http://search.yahoo.com/cc).

This is certainly a boon to the cause of Lawrence Lessig, chairman of the board of directors of Creative Commons and a law professor at Stanford Law School. And it begins to dispel a few myths on both sides of the table. On the webmaster's side there has been a myth that just because content can be seen all over many websites that it is in the public domain and there has been an erroneous assumption by some that content is always being used without consent.

Indeed there are some copyright holders that are pleased to share their photos, text, videos with the Internet and the Creative Commons offers a centralized depository. Check it out.

note: larwee you beat me to the punchline! :)

03-25-2005, 02:36 PM

Good one Steve. I hadn't seen this before. Friendly terms, good prices, great photos. I like it.

03-25-2005, 03:14 PM
A lot of times, you can get permission or buy the image for cheap. I needed an image for a site I was working on last week. I found one in google that was perfect. I contacted the website owner who ended up being a teacher and said a 8 year old drew the picture last semester. So she had him get in contact we me and the kid made himself a cool $50. He later emailed me he also got featured in the school paper for it.

03-26-2005, 05:46 AM
Thanks everyone for your valuable comments! I decided not to buy the photographs and instead do some research on the web. I found one site which I think is interesting:


They claim that the images are free and this seems to be legitimate to me. What do you think?

03-26-2005, 06:50 AM
morguefile is pretty good but I like http://sxc.hu better.

03-26-2005, 12:35 PM
"...It is unlikely something is in the public domain unless it was created before 1927..."

A CREATED but not published work has longer copyright protection than a published work. The rule I know:

Works first PUBLISHED in the U.S. before 1923 are in the public domain.

After 1923 copyright rules get a little complex.

03-26-2005, 01:48 PM
Ah, sxc.hu! That's a site that I once found and forgot to bookmark! Thanks for the link :-)

03-26-2005, 02:32 PM
WOW! :)

A "virtual" cornacopia of photoes. Thanks all :)

What I REALLY like about http://sxc.hu/ is the fact that in many cases they provide the web site and email address of the photographer.

Thus you can confirm "rights" and your intended use directly with the alleged owner/photographer. Plus, with more and more folks going all digital they may in fact have other images and or collections for you to use under various licensing plans.

Tip: You need to thoroughly describe the images you are asking about and verifiying rights for specific use. For example:

"The babe in the water" means absolutley zilch and is totally unsatisfactory. Rather:

Please see file name "artists_name_0001.jpg or reference the original file name and also provide a description of the image like this: Female floating in water, lower body with no head shot. Wearing a red and green bikini bottom and located at the following URL: blablabla . html


03-27-2005, 01:20 PM
Thanks for bringing a few of these sources to light, guys-n-gals. :)

A few other public domain / copyleft photography sources that have been created by photographers themselves include:

Both are a bit scanty as to the depth of their selection, but they do provide a few gems.

Of course, a number of government agencies both domestic and international also provide photos on a public domain or free-to-use basis. Some require crediting, others don't. A few of my faves are NASA's archives and the repository maintained by the US National Park Service:

Have fun! :)

04-02-2005, 12:38 PM
In checking out issues regarding public domain, I have discovered that you must check out the specifics of a property to find out of it is still covered by copyright.

Case in point, the Happy Birthday song; created in 1893 but first copyrighted in 1935. In 1935 there was no automatic copyright upon creation, and the youngest of the three Hill sisters registered her older sisters song because she was then working for a music publisher and knew something about the laws.

With renewals and changes in copyright law over time, notably 1978 and 1989, the Happy Birthday song still has an active copyright (Warner-Chappell) and still makes the copyright holder over $2million a year.

So the short of it is, you have to check and just because something was created prior to 1927 does not automatically mean it is in the public domain.

05-30-2005, 02:45 AM
Yet another handy dandy source of public domain images - this time comprising original works presented by photographers directly to the creative community - may be found here: