Photo Pin for Creative Commons Photos and Ethical Image Use

I continue to encounter too many educators who remain blissfully unaware that they are encouraging their students to steal intellectual property. They mistakenly believe it’s ok to use any image returned by a basic Google search. In fact, unless the searcher goes to Google’s ‘Advanced Image Search’ settings, and opts to search only for “images labeled for reuse”, most search results probably cannot be copied or reused legally. The reality is that if the author retains the copyright, as indicated by the symbol above, an image (or video or song) cannot be used without the express permission of the author.

Happily, there is more than enough material online that can be used legally because it has been licensed under the Creative Commons, symbolized by the circle containing ‘cc’. Many thousands of people, myself included, use this license for what they share online–images, videos, music, blog content, etc. For more information about the Creative Commons, please visit their website. [I've also embedded a short video about about Creative Commons at the bottom of this post.]

For several years, I have used the search engine Compfight that can be set to return only Creative Commons images when I want to find images to use in blog posts or presentations. Now I’ve discovered an alternative that I really like.

Photo Pin is an image search engine that returns images licensed under the Creative Commons. It is straightforward and extremely easy to use.

1. Enter a search term and click the ‘Search’ button.

2. Place your cursor on an image that interests you.

3. To view the entire image, click on ‘preview’.

3. If you wish to use the image, click on ‘get photo’. This will bring up the dialogue box shown below where you can choose the size of image you wish to download. You are also offered a link to the original image, as well as code that you can ¬†copy and paste into a blog post or other website in order to credit the person who took the picture. I have illustrated this below the dialogue box.


photo credit: paulhami via photopin cc

6 thoughts on “Photo Pin for Creative Commons Photos and Ethical Image Use

  1. I dare say I don’t see any problem in students using copyrighted material. As long as it’s not used in a commercial manner.

    Copyright laws are choking the creativity right out of our society. Let us as teacher not join in, but give our students the freedom to be creative in their use of materials, copyrighted or not.

  2. Paul, When we go to Google Image search we can’t find the Advanced Search Settings anymore. So we can’t navigate to the only use Creative Commons images. Can you help?

  3. Nelson – I believe we need to model ethical behaviour and expect it from our students, even if we object to laws as they written. Besides, the Creative Commons offers a helpful counter to the many pitfalls of copyright legislation. Creative Commons licensing does a great job of constructively facilitating creativity.

    KW – Google has made it much more difficult to find the Advanced Search Settings, but they’re still there. The easiest way is probably to use Google to find and go to “Google Advanced Image Search”. There you will find the option of searching for “Only images labeled for reuse.” You are also offered the choices of finding images that can be used for commercial purposes and those that you are permitted to modify.

  4. Thanks to Steve for mentioning this on his webpage (and I owe you an update, Steve)
    A question from a collegue:
    “Although PhotoPin sounds cool if it actually works. Does it automatically search all government created photos (automatically public domain) even if they are not marked as such?”

  5. Paul — Have you heard of PhotoDropper – http://photodropper.com?

    It’s a WordPress plugin that covers all the legal bases that PhotoPin does but integrated directly with WordPress.

    Figured I’d drop a note here as it might be a useful tool for your readers who run blogs.

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