Using Public Domain Images For Personal and Professional Use

Pamela Ullmann
5 min readJul 11, 2022
Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

In the world of copyright, public domain images refer to photos and graphics anyone can use. These include previously copyrighted material after its expiration date, but on average, it will be seventy years before this happens.

The copyright term is the length of time your work stays under a specific royalty rate, and it’s usually seventy years after death. There are some exceptions — creative work made for hire or sound recordings last fifty years from publication date.

The public domain is something that everyone can use. It’s the property of nobody, but you’re welcome to it nonetheless! You cannot own public-domain material — it will always remain free for all. It can never belong exclusively to any one person or organization.

It doesn’t matter if your mom wrote her favorite song 20 years ago. We all share in its usage because she didn’t copyright herself when creating this masterpiece. Anyone could do whatever they want with them, even sell the work!

Creative commons is different

Creative Commons (CC) is an internationally active non-profit organisation that provides free licences for creators to use when making their work available to the public. These licences help the creator to give permission for others to use the work in advance under certain conditions.

Every time a work is created, such as when a journal article is written or a photograph taken, that work is automatically protected by copyright. Copyright protection prevents others from using the work in certain ways, such as copying the work or putting the work online.

CC licences allow the creator of the work to select how they want others to use the work. When a creator releases their work under a CC licence, members of the public know what they can and can’t do with the work. This means that they only need to seek the creator’s permission when they want to use the work in a way not permitted by the licence.

The great thing is that all CC licences allow works to be used for educational purposes. As a result, teachers and students can freely copy, share and sometimes modify and remix a CC work without having to seek the permission of the creator.

Pamela Ullmann

I hold a strong belief in the transformative power of the creative process, which can serve as a means of healing and self-discovery.