Snagging Images the Guilt-Free Way
Who amongst us has not been tempted to make use of an image found via Google Image Search? In the past, you would have been wise to avoid that temptation, since in most cases this would have run counter to the intent of the image creator. But Google has recently added the ability to determine the usage rights connected with such images, which is good news for those either seeking or creating imagery.
To see this in action, head over to Google's Advanced Image Search. Launched in 2001, searching here will now display images labeled by their creators as being under the Creative Commons or the GNU Free Documentation licenses, as well as in the public domain. Use the Usage Rights drop-down to specify images labeled for reuse, commercial reuse, reuse with modification or commercial reuse with modification. After browsing the results and locating the desired image, you'll need to go to the host site to determine the exact requirements of the licence, such as the degree to which attribution is required.
Does this turn Google into a good source of free imagery? Not exactly. The quality of the images remains for the most part pretty marginal and it can be a hassle to determine the exact usage requirements for an image. There's also still an element of risk in using these, since "Google has no way of knowing whether the license is legitimate, so we aren't making any representation that the content is actually or lawfully licensed." With microstock prices so low, I can't see this as a viable alternative, except for non-commercial applications, such as internal office communications. The OffiSync toolbar, which hooks up Microsoft Office applications to a variety of Google services, is a good example of this. Users can access Image Search from within Word or PowerPoint, complete with the new license filters, and directly bring images into their documents.
Perhaps more interesting from the perspective of content creators is that this could prove to be a viable way to drive traffic and sales. Someone searching for images by using these filters is trying to find content that can be used legally—a good first step. I can see photographers or illustrators making available a range of small images for use under these licenses. Creating an appropriate landing page that provides a prominent call to action to sign up for notices of additional imagery, or another mechanism to convert visitors to customers, should be well worth the effort.
The key is to provide high quality imagery (even if the format is reduced), so it will stand out from the pack. And of course make sure images are findable, keeping in mind that keywords for the search are based on the image's filename, link text pointing to it, and nearby text.