Creative Commons Image Search

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During my talk at WordCamp Dallas, which should be up on this site later this week, I discussed ways to locate free and legal content for your site. During this talk, I highlighted some of the better ways to get images for your blog posts, including Photo Dropper and Zemanta (though the latter doesn’t fully complete the CC license).

However, for those who either don’t have WordPress or just want an easy way to copy and paste HTML code for an image, JazzBiscuit’s Creative Commons Image Search may be just the tool you’re looking for. Though it is an older tool, having been around well over a year, it makes it amazingly easy to find images on Flickr and embed them into your site, complete with all of citation needed to fulfill the CC license.

This can be especially useful if you have a Dynamic site, are looking for images to go along with an article submitted elsewhere or just want to do a quick search to see what is available, without installing a plugin.

However, it isn’t a perfect system and users should be wary before relying upon it too heavily.

How it Works

Red Door
Photo owned by modomatic (cc)

The way the system works is pretty basic overall. When you visit the site, you are prompted to select an image size, either small, medium or large, and then enter the term you’re looking for. After a few seconds you’ll see a series of thumbnails of relevant images on Flickr, clicking one of them pulls the image up in full size, meaning the size you chose, and provides the source code you need to put the image on your site.

You can see a sample of a small image to the right.

It is important to choose the size of the image you want before performing your search. Also, bear in mind that medium and large images are probably too big for a blog post, making small the only practical size for most sites.

All in all, the system does its job fairly well, though there are a few limitations to bear in mind.

Limitations and Concerns

The astute will have already noticed that the application does not ask you if you are using the image for a commercial or non-commercial use. Though this might seem to be a legal issue, the site only produces images that are under the CC-BY license. This means that the images can be used for any purpose (provided attribution and other terms are met) but it also means the service misses images under other CC licenses.

For example, if you run a non-commercial site, you can use any of the CC licenses for this purpose. However, this application will only find images licensed under the least restrictive, and least common, terms.

Also, though the page says it was updated in March allow users to flush images left or right, no such command seems to exist on the site. As such, you’ll likely have to wrap the image in a table or div to ensure that it is positioned correctly, meaning that there is still some coding left to do. Though Photo Dropper has this issue as well, it allows you to set it up only once and have it be consistent in the future.

The biggest problem, however, is that I am late to this party. The site that this is an offshoot of has been inactive since August, 2008 and the page is being kept alive solely for the benefit of those who use it. Outside of the reported March update, which doesn’t seem to be working, not much has been done with it. Though it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the tool, it makes me less than certain about its future.

Bottom Line

Personally, I prefer Photo Dropper strongly to this image search tool. Photo Dropper is easier to use, finds more images and is better integrated with WordPress, my blogging platform of choice. However, I can see a lot of potential in a Web-based tool like this one and, with a few simple improvements, it really could be a viable tool for those who either want a non-plugin solution or don’t use WordPress.

As it is now, it is simply too limited and its future is too uncertain for me to highly recommend it. If you need it and it can provide you the images you want, by all means use it. But as it sits right now, as far as I can see, it is about 80% of a really great project.

Unfortunately though, if the author’s abandonment of the main site it seems like that may not happen.

Still, it would be an interesting project for someone who were interested in this issue to take up.

6 comments
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MovingMountains
MovingMountains

Thanks for getting back to me. It is, indeed, gray. I will take your advice to heart, and unless I learn differently down the road, I will only use photos in the future with a commercial license.

Jonathan Bailey
Jonathan Bailey

This is actually one of the biggest sticking points with CC licenses is the definition of commercial use. There's a wide swath of gray area here that isn't easily explained away.

What I typically tell people is, if you're using CC content for anything that in any way generates money, even if its just ads to pay the hosting bills on a site or a site that remotely promotes a business, to go ahead and make sure they have commercial rights.

For example, here on PT, I use only works licensed for commercial use because the site does promote my consulting practice. Do I make money directly from PT? No. But it does support my business indirectly.

This is just an area where the law is not settled and, even when it is, there is a lot of confusion among the people who license and use the content. It's just better to be safe than sorry here. If nothing else, it avoids conflicts.

Just my two cents...

MovingMountains
MovingMountains

I would like to know what constitutes "commercial" use in regard to a CC license. Can I use an image with a "non-commercial" license on a blog on a business web site? For example, if I use my company web site to to talk about landscape design services, but write a blog post on that site about how to grow tomatoes in your garden and want to use a photo of a tomato plant, does that constitute commercial or non-commercial use? I'm not selling tomato plants, just providing free tips to my readers. If I write a blog post (another site) about simplifying your life (not selling a service) but I have affiliate links and advertisements on the blog, does using a photo constitute commercial or non-commercial use?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on commercial vs. non-commercial use.

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