Four Ways to Find Free Images to Use Legally with Google Apps

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Andy Wolber lists four ways to find free and legal images to use in your business with Google Apps.

Find an image online, save it, then use it.

Unfortunately, people sometimes use images without proper credit, permission, or payment. In other words, people sometimes violate copyright law – and a violation of copyright law can pose a significant legal risk.

There’s a simple solution: look for “licensed for reuse” images, meaning images that you can legally use. Google and Bing can be configured to display images with this license.

The license exists thanks to Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded in 2001. The organization promotes the legal sharing of the works created, and the creators specify the conditions for reuse.

There are a total of six licenses, all of which allow reuse but with increasingly restrictive conditions. The least restrictive requires attribution — you must credit the creator. The more restrictive require attribution and prohibit both the creation of derivative works and commercial use (licensing details are available online).

Here’s a quick guide to finding licensed images for reuse in Google Apps and Chrome.

1. Insert an image (in Docs, Slides, Sheets and Drawings)

In Google Drive apps, select the Insert menu, choose Picture, then click Search. Enter a keyword to search for images. Narrow your search to images of a specific color (select one of the color boxes shown) or type (eg, face, photo, clip art, or line art).

Only images licensed for “commercial reuse with modification” are displayed (Figure A). Click on an image to view a link to the image online. Follow the link to make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of using this image. To use the image, click Select.

Figure A

Search for images licensed for “commercial use with modification” in Google Docs.

2. Search with an add-on (in Docs and Sheets)

the Openclipart add-on by Apps4Gapps offers integrated image search of openclipart.orgwhich has images for “unlimited commercial use” (Figure B). You can use and/or modify these images according to your needs.

Figure B

Search and insert images from opencliparts.org into Docs and Sheets with the Openclipart add-on.

To add the Openclipart tool to Docs or Sheets, select the Add-ons menu, choose Get Add-ons, then search for the Openclipart add-on. Select it, then click the +FREE button to add it. You will need to accept the script’s permission request.

Once added, navigate to search from Add-ons | openclipart | Find clipart menu. A search box will appear to the right of your document. Enter a keyword to search for an image. Click on the image to insert it into your document. The add-on inserts the image at your cursor location.

Unlike Insert | Image Search, this add-on does not identify the source of the image. A search on openclipart.org provides details that identify the image uploader, image creation data, and file size.

3. Image Search (on Google.com)

Google Image Search — at images.google.com — offers another alternative (Figure C). Enter keywords, then select the Search Tools tab. Filter your results by size, color, type, time and/or license.

Figure C

Filter images.google.com search results by usage rights and more.

If you intend to use the image in a business, government, or non-profit organization, choose one of the Labeled for Reuse licenses. Options Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse may return more results, but these images are intended for home or school use. Always check the image license at the source.

4. Search for similar images

If an image you have isn’t quite right, search for similar images. Open a Google image search, then click the camera in the search bar to upload an image. You can also enter a link to an image. Google will return matching and/or similar images.

A Google Chrome extension helps you find similar images for web images. Need more information about a person? Right-click a social media profile picture and search. This will help you discover other places the image appears online. To configure this, install Google Search by image extension in Chrome (Figure D). Then right-click on an image while browsing. One of the options will be Search Google with this image. Choose it and the results will appear. On the results page, select Images, then filter by the appropriate license.

Figure D

Find images similar to any image on the web with the Google Search by Image Chrome extension.

Additional options

Consider a Creative Commons license for the media you create and share online. For example, you can assign a Creative Commons license to your videos on YouTube, your photos on FlickrWhere your audio recordings on SoundCloud. Find other Creative Commons licensed content libraries at search.creativecommons.org.

The next time you need an image for a document or presentation, find the license and the image. Use the image only if you have permission, provide credit, and use it with the restrictions stipulated by the license. Creators around the world, as well as your organization’s legal department, will thank you.

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