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Flickr Hacks by Jim Bumgardner, Paul Bausch

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Hack #16. Find Pictures You Can Reuse Legally

Use the Flickr Creative Commons tools to find photos with special licenses or let others know how they can use your photographs.

Most of the photos you see at Flickr are copyrighted. The default license setting at Flickr is a standard copyright, which means the original photographer controls how the photo can be used. Unfortunately, you can never be sure how a particular photographer will react if you use part or all of her work in your own project.

Say you're preparing a public presentation and you'd like to use a photo of the Liberty Bell to illustrate a point. Unless you specifically obtain permission (and possibly pay a fee), you can't be sure the creator of a photo you find on the Web won't sue you for copyright violation. While there is a legal term called fair use that protects some use of copyrighted materials—especially for educational purposes—it's hard to know exactly what uses fall under this legal definition, because the concept of fair use is only vaguely defined. Without contacting the photographer or owner of the copyright, there's no way to know what they'll consider a fair use of their materials.

This legal ambiguity is one of the reasons that the nonprofit group Creative Commons (CC) has made several alternative licenses available to artists who want to license their work in more specific ways than a general copyright provides. For example, you can make your work available to anyone who wants to use your photos on the ...

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