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Royalty Free Media

by Gisle Hannemyr

The rights to use artistic works, including images and audio, come in four different flavours:

  1. Rights managed: This means to you license the work for a one time use in a specific publications. If you want to use the same work again, you need to buy another license.
  2. Royalty free: This means that you pay a one-time fee for the right to use the work as part of your own work. You can reuse the work as many times as you like without paying further royalties, but you are not allowed to sell or sublicense the work (only to use it as an illustration or sound-clip that accompany your own work).
  3. Free (with restrictions): Some sites let you dowenload and use works for free for non-commercial purposes, such as education. The restrictions that may apply may follow from legal concepts such as fair use (US), fair dealing (Common­wealth), or similar provisions in other jurisdictions. Thay may also be expressed through am explicit license, such as the six licenses that constitute the Creative Commons framework.
  4. Zero restrictions: Some works are in the public domain, or all copyrights and neighbouring rights has been waived by the original author. This means that you can use the work for all purposes, including commercial. Creative Commons has created an experimental protocol, called CCzero, to make such works easier to locate on the Internet.

Note that the four “flavours” outlined above only concerns copyright. If the image depicts an recognisable person, that person has a legal right to privacy, and the use of their likeness for advertising typically requires that a model release must be obtained before using the image.

For learning web design and multimedia presentations (e.g. Flash), rights managed sources are too expensive. Below is some pointers to royalty free, free (with restrictions) and zero restrictions sources:

Multimedia and mixed resources:

Image resources:

Audio resources:


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