Understanding what the CCO license means for stock images

Its not an easy task to find the good quality free images to use in different types of writing such as blogs, articles, websites etc. You need to make sure that you understand the license and attribution of the image, otherwise, you might be in breach of copyright law. Especially in schools, we need to educate students and teachers to be aware of the proper methods of finding pictures.

Understanding the CCO license and different terminologies

Stock Photography

Stock photography refers to the online posted photographs. These online photographs are to be shared and used. There are hundreds of stock photography online websites. Stock photography is a very competitive business. These stock photos can be used for different purposes which are usually taken by professionals and they can be purchased too. There are many websites which provided paid photographs to the users on the internet, whereas, some of them are free of cost. The paid images sites are Getty, iStock, Shutterstock, etc. on the other hand free of cost images sites are Flickr Creative Commons, Pixabay, Pexels, ClipSafari, FreePik, etc.


The creator of an original work art and who takes a photo and publishes it online has the right to be recognized as the creator of that image. On any website, the creators automatically own the copyright in that photo, which means they have the legal right to decide where and how this image can be used. So, if you are using a copyrighted image you are breaking the law. You must first get permission from the author.

Public Domain

The copyright does not last forever on any website or product. Typically, copyright in an image will last for the life of the author, and 70 years after their death. After 70 years of their death, if the copyright is not renewed, the image may become part of the public domain and the copyright will no longer apply. Public domain images are free to use in your tasks or books.

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons (CC) License allows the copyright holder of an image to choose for their work availability using variety of Creative Commons License. These essentially allow photos to be reused without surrendering all copyrights.

The author can decide how he wants his work to be reused, e.g. Can the photo be edited? Can it be used for commercial purposes for example, in a promotion or advertising campaign? Is it necessary to accredit the author?

There are 6 types of CC license. You can search them on google as creative common license where you can read more about on the Creative Commons website.


Old public domain license which is also known as CCO is the other type of CC license. In CCO License the author has waived their copyright. It is very important that you understand that how Creative Commons licenses work, if you want to get images from the web search.


Royalty-free images sites and images available on them does not mean that they are necessarily free. You can buy a license to use the photo however you want but there may be some restrictions by the owner or creator of the photo. Typically, in royalty-free, you will be allowed to use this photo an unlimited number of times without having to pay again.

Fair use

Fair use sometimes called as fair dealing. Fair use of an image from any stock image web search relates to using an image to illustrate a point. For fair use the stock images must be used for educational or non-profit purposes. However, it’s okay to give the author credit if you can.

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, a grant is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, teaching, reporting, commentary, scholarships, research, and education.


You must credit the author whenever you use an image that has a Creative Commons license. Even outside of copyright law, it is a moral right. You need to get their permission first if you don’t want to give credit to the original creator of the image.

It is common to credit the photo on the web, and return a link to the original or the author’s website. You must also link to that license if the attribution includes a Creative Commons license requirement. Each license has its URL such as www.sitebureau.com.

CCO – No Rights Reserved

CCO licenses allow the owners of the copyright on different websites to publish their work without restrictions. Public domain works are either expired CCO licenses or works originally published without restrictions. Anyone can use these public domains or CCO licensed images for their blogs, websites, etc.

CC0 helps the artists, educators, scientists, writers, and other creators and owners of content or databases protected by copyright to relinquish these interests in their works and place them as completely as possible in the public domain. Others may freely build on them, improve them, and reuse the works for any purpose without restriction under the laws of copyright or database.

Unlike CC licenses which allow copyright owners to choose from a variety of permissions while retaining their copyrights. CC0 allows another option, the option to opt-out of receiving copyrights and the protection against databases, and proprietary rights automatically granted to creators, the alternative no rights reserved to our licenses.

Use of CCO for stock images

CC0 should not be used to mark works already free of known restrictions of copyright and databases unlike the brand in the public domain, that are part of the public domain worldwide. However, CCO can be used to waive the rights of copyright and database rights to the extent that you can have these rights on your work under at least one jurisdiction law, even if your work is free from restrictions on others. It clarifies the status of your work unambiguous worldwide and facilitates reuse.

CC0 should only be applied to your job unless you have the right to apply CC0 to someone else’s job.

Why use Public Domain or CCO Licensed Images?

Images on the web are protected by copyrights. Even though copyright is not mentioned, you should assume it is. It is illegal to use the images without the permission of the creator or author.

You can buy high-quality images from different royalty-free image websites such as ShutterStock because not everyone can afford to buy the licensed photos and images for their work. Public domain images and CCO license come in handy when one is not having a budget to buy copyrights images and photos.

As already mentioned, public domain images are those whose licenses have expired or the work by the creator or author is published on free image websites without restriction of use. Public domain or CC0 licensed images may be used by anyone for any purpose. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the most selected fonts for free public domain or CC0 licensed images.

Gratisography: You can find the world’s quirkiest collection of high-resolution free stock images on Gratisography. They have the best and creative images that are not available on any other free stock image site. You can use the Gratisography images for personal and commercial projects like advertising campaigns, book covers, magazines, posters etc.

Pixabay: Pixabay is updated on regular basis for their users to find new and less-used images with a large collection of free images.

Pexels: Pexels is a large, well-organized collection of public domain photographs. You can easily search for images categorized or use its search function. All Pexels photos are free to use without any attribution requirement.

Unsplash: A very popular website for high-quality CC0 licensed photos. Unsplash publishes 10 photos in every 10 days. You can use its cool search feature to find images that match certain themes like nature, office, work, etc.

Public Domain Pictures: Public Domain Pictures offers its users to search for high-quality images, graphics and vectors for their blogs, articles, etc. The browsing of the images is made easier for the users just like the other websites with categories available on the website for image search.

Pickup Image: Pickup Image allows its users to look for free clipart and graphics under the collection of free public domain images.

New Old Stock: This website has a collection of vintage photographs created by number of creators and owners that are now in public domain available for the users of the internet for their work.

Skitterphoto: CCO licensed photos and images available on this site are less-used and are unique in their nature because this site features the work of their own photographers.

My Stock Photos: There is a decent collection of more than 500 free stock images for blogs and articles. Images are organized in different categories and they can be downloaded on high resolution.

Barn Images: All of the images available on this site can be downloaded in high resolution and they are free because they are CCO licensed.

Negative Space: A beautifully curated collection of CC0 licensed images on Negative Space is for bloggers, artists, and small businesses. You can search for images by tags and colors and it has an easy to use the search feature.