You can always add an image or audio file or some other media to a website if it is in the public domain. This means that either the copyright has expired, or the copyright holder has released the work into the public domain and you can use it however you choose.
How do you know if a work is in the public domain? According to the UBC Copyright site, information on public domain, "In Canada, the copyright for a work usually expires 50 years after the death of the creator, at the end of the relevant calendar year." The situation is actually quite complicated, though, so please see the link for the UBC Copyright site above for specifics.
Finding public domain works
The easiest thing to do to find public domain works is to look in a place where they are clearly labeled as such. Here are some good places to find public domain works.
- Wikimedia Commons: This is the repository for multimedia items for Wikipedia, but anyone can see and download the files. Some, but by no means all, images on Wikimedia Commons are public domain. You have to click on each image when you do a search to see if it's in the public domain or not.
- Flickr: Flickr is a photo site that quite a few people use. Some of the photos (though not many so far) are released into the public domain, but you have to know how to look for them. Go to this URL and scroll down to "public domain dedication" or "public domain mark": https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons
- Internet Archive: This is a very large digital library of books, images, films, audio files and more. Like Wikimedia Commons, some things here are public domain and some are not. You have to check for each item.
- See the UBC Copyright page on public domain for more places to look for public domain works.
If you use a work in the public domain you don't need to attribute its creator, as you do with Creative Commons works (below). But for the purposes of our class, for your assignments, give a link to where you got the original document, and say that it's public domain, so that I can check to make sure it indeed is public domain.
Creative Commons licenses
Even if a work is not in the public domain, you may still be able to use it on a website, if it is licensed to allow reuse. Creative Commons licenses are one common way that creators of works can show that they don't mind if others reuse those works.
It can be a bit tricky working with Creative Commons licenses, though, because there are quite a number of different licenses. The UBC Copyright site on Creative Commons explains the different kinds. The CC BY-NC license, for example, allows people to reuse the work so long as it is not for a commercial purpose. The CC BY-ND license allows people to reuse the work, but only if they don't change it in any way ("no derivatives").
For using an image or an audio file on a site, the easiest thing to do is to stick with things that have a CC BY license, unless you're sure that the way in which you are using the work isn't "commercial" (e.g., no one is making money off of it) and you aren't going to change the work in any way but just post it.
The CC BY license says that you can use the work however you want to, even to make money, and you can change it if you want; all you have to do is make sure to attribute the work to its original creator. See here for an example of an attributed work.
Finding works licensed with Creative Commons licenses
- Creative Commons Search Tool : Type in your search terms and click the checkboxes if you need something you can use for a commercial purpose or if you want to modify the work. Then click one of the boxes below the search bar to search a particular site for images, music, etc. Flickr has a lot of images with Creative Commons licenses.
- Wikimedia Commons often has CC licensed works.
- You can do a search on Flickr specifically for Creative Commons licensed images by going here: https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/
- Unsplash.com has some great images that are all licensed CC0, which means you can use them for any purpose without attribution.
- Pixabay: almost all images on Pixabay are licensed CC0 (be careful, though, the first line of each page includes images you have to pay for...scroll down to the free ones!).
- Magdeleine has photos that are Creative Commons licensed.
- Compfight is a useful site that you can use to find Creative Commons licensed images; be sure to click on the left menu for Creative Commons licenses!. The nice thing about Compfight is that they give you the html code for attributing the resource that you can paste into your web page so you don't have to worry about attribution. Watch out, though; the first few lines of images on this site are not free; they are sponsored images you have to pay for.
- You can also do an image search on Google, but there is a complication with this.
- Go to https://images.google.com/ and do your search
- On the search results page, click on "search tools" on the menu near the top of the page, which will open up a second menu; choose "usage rights" and choose one of the options that allows re-use
- This will bring up images that Google thinks are licensed to allow re-use. BUT Google just looks for an open license anywhere on the page; the image itself may not be openly license, or the person may have used it illegally. I use Google Image search for things on Wikimedia Commons or Flickr that state clearly that they are licensed with a CC or other open license. Stay away from images from blogs if you can't tell where they got the image.
- The http://copyright.ubc.ca/guidelines-and-resources/support-guides/image-sources/ has a great list of places you can look for images that you can revise and reuse in your work.
- YouTube: Some videos on YouTube are Creative Commons licensed, but the default license is a "Standard YouTube License," which does not allow you to reuse or revise the video without permission from the copyright holder. You have to click on "show more" on the description to see which license the video has.
- To filter YouTube results only for CC licensed videos, type your terms into the search box and when the list of results comes up click on the "Filters" button on the top left. This will bring up a list of things you can filter by, including "Creative Commons."
- Vimeo: Again, some videos are Creative Commons licensed, but not all. You have to click "more" under the video title to see the license.
- To search for CC licensed videos on Vimeo, do a search as usual and then go to the left menu where the options are and scroll down to a small line called "+more filters." That will bring up the CC licensing options to filter the results by.
- Soundcloud: Again, some tracks are licensed with Creative Commons, some not. It will be in the description of the track.
- Free Music Archive: The music on this site is free to download, but not always available for re-posting and revision. The link at left takes you to the Creative Commons section of the FMA, where you can do those things (unless the license is ND, no derivatives, in which case you can't change the music and re-post your revision).
- CC Mixter: The music on this site is all Creative Commons licensed.
- Incompetech.com: On this site, Kevin MacLeod (who writes music for film scores, among other things) makes a good deal of his music available with a CC license.
- Freesound: Freesound mainly has sound effects, but there is also some music on it. All sounds are Creative Commons licensed or public domain (CC0).
Attributing Creative Commons licensed works correctly
Creative Commons has a useful set of instructions on how to give the proper attribution if the image or other work you are posting is not in the public domain.
Note that you can give this attribution just at the bottom of your page; you don't have to do it right under the picture in a caption (knowing how to do that requires that you know the html code, which is a bit complicated!).