As a writer, you’re not always concerned with visual or audio artwork. It’s often secondary to the Muse dictating the story to you. As a Self-Sufficient Author, however, you need media for marketing your author brand, so how do you find it and use it legally?

A Useful Guide to Free PhotosThe Ultimate Guide to Free Photos, Media & More was too ambitious, plus it wasn’t an achievable goal, so I created A Useful Guide to Free Photos, Media & More, with more than a dozen top resources, to help you find content to illustrate your website and your books without spending a dime on photos, video, music and more. I hope you find it useful.

I started curating my list of free, downloadable content years ago, because of a client who ran into problems using stock photography. As a customer of a popular word processing software, she had permission to use the artwork that came packaged on the software CD. That changed when Getty Images purchased the rights to the images. The software customers had no way of knowing about the change of ownership. My client received a harassing email, threatening a lawsuit if she did not pay $2,000 for “illegally” using an image that came pre-packaged on the CD she legally purchased.

She removed the image but refused to pay for a product she had the right to use, stating this in a strongly worded letter. The harassment stopped, but the lesson was learned: Be careful when using media because legal rights can be transferred without your knowledge.

Throughout the years, Getty Images has grown into the largest photographic aggregator and resale company, and with that has come several billion-dollar lawsuits, this time against Getty. For example, prolific photographer Carol M. Highsmith sued Getty Images for $1 billion in July 2016, for copyright infringement. In a nutshell, Highsmith donated 18,755 photographs to the Library of Congress, retaining her copyright, but making the images available to our national institution. She learned that Getty aggregated those images from the LOC, and charged licensing fees for the use of her photographs without her consent when Getty sent her a letter insisting she pays for her own photograph, which she posted on her own website.

There are many resources for stock photography and other media. Just be certain you know who owns the content and that you’re complying with the law.

If you’re not sure of ownership, considering using TinEye, a website that conducts a reverse image search. Or, use the Advanced Safe Search function on Google’s Image browser. Be careful!

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21-Day Writing Sprint Challenge by Robin Van Auken

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