Don’t get sued, part 2: a confession

And my confession is, to quote GOB Bluth:

I've made a huge mistake

I’ve made a huge mistake.

Remember last week’s post about blogging resources you can use without fear of lawsuits? Remember how I said I was going to look into actual images and fonts you can use?

yeah. About that.

I was so optimistic going into it, you guys. I like being helpful, I like doing detective work, and I love a low-stakes challenge. I really thought I was going to have a huge list of resources by now. But just about everything I found that claimed to be free had something or another wrong with it:

  • Creative commons-licensed stuff, but allowed unmoderated user uploads and licensing, thus potentially leading to the problem discussed last week with regards to Flickr: people uploading things they don’t own themselves, and putting licenses on it.
  • Stock photo sites that allow free downloads, but only tiny, poor-quality images (or watermarked ones).
  • Stock photo sites that allow free downloads, but only if you give them your credit card information first (side note, aren’t we past the whole “free” trial thing? just, like, as a society? it really feels like the kind of thing that should have died out by now.).
  • Font repositories that contained misused and incorrectly sourced fonts at best, blatantly stolen fonts at worst.
  • The usual “free resources!” lists that were full of unsourced, or incorrectly sourced, material that, upon further investigation, proved to not be free at all.
  • No terms of service, or indeed any kind of information at all. I feel like that’s the online equivalent of a van with “FREE CANDY” marked on the side.

Even when I found things that were 100%, totally, legally free, sometimes they weren’t things I could feel okay about using, since sometimes these totally legal things end up being kind of shady after all. And while there seems to be a growing number of creator-owned sites springing up to fill the gap, all the ones I found had small or unsearchable libraries, making them of limited use.

So, ultimately, I’m scrapping what I hoped would be an ongoing series where I linked image and font sources you could safely use. Instead — at least for today — I’m just going to simplify and stress what I said last week:

If you didn’t make it yourself, and you don’t have permission, don’t use it.

You need to know that every time you post something that you didn’t make yourself, that you don’t have a license for, that you haven’t been given explicit written permission to use, you’re risking a lawsuit. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. As much as I would like to, I can’t sugar-coat this one. There’s honestly not a lot out there you can use for free without asking. Be skeptical, be thoughtful, be careful.

With all of that in mind, here’s one resource I did think was awesome: this post at Olyvia, listing loads of free resources. If you’re looking for free images for commercial use, this should be your starting point — this was the only list I found where the author stressed the need to use legitimate sources that can’t get you in trouble.

Now that I know I can’t get on this subject without turning into a big ball of doom and gloom, I’m going to shift focus to creating new things. I’m already about 1000% more excited about what I’ve got planned, so I think it’s going to work out even better than what I’d originally thought to do. First on my list is an easy, fun photo-editing project that I hope you’ll join me for next Tuesday!


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