What you need to know about using Wikipedia images in your blog

Nowadays blogging is hot. But the fun can be over when you are caught using random images from the internet where you don’t own the copyrights. Search engines make it tempting through their easy image search mechanisms to grab a nice image for your blog article. But even when you think that you can flourish up you blog articles with images from Wikipedia, the practice is not that simple either.

A lawyers advice

I was noticed by our customer Mr. Sjef van Swaaij of Van Swaaij Cassatie & Consultancy, lawyer at Nijmegen (NL).  He was informed by a colleague expert in the field stating that Wikipedia is a public source regarding information shared, but that this doesn’t automatically apply to its media content.

Fortunately Wikipedia is having a clickable link to every image, which leads to the information about the media item. There you can also find the license information that matches with the image (or video). Please read this carefully before using it in your own blog or website.

A sample, Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer


Het Melkmeisje from Johannes Vermeer is a famous painting from 1658. As you can see below this image that the representation of this art (painting) itself is  public domain. But that doesn’t automatically apply to the photograph. In this case there is an additional note about the file itself. This file has been identified as being free of know restrictions under copyright law. But that is for the United States.


Wikipedia only

The photograph published on Wikipedia holds the copyright information to only that image. It doesn’t mean that any other image of the same subject, but from a different source has the same obligations or privileges as the one shown on Wikipedia.

Flickr, be careful here too

Another great source for images is Flickr. But here it is the same as with Wikipedia. You can’t use freely images from this website either. In Flickr you can right mouse click on the image to have the copyright information. Only when an image has the creative commons copyright it can be shared on your site. And sharing is just the same as publishing. You present the image on your site, so you are responsible for any copyright obligation.

In the sample below it shows that this image has some rights reserved. You can click on this to see what that means.


After clicking on the link it learns us the following:


That means there are no limitations to use it in our blog. This image comes from our own Enovision Flickr account (link below). There are no limits on our images to use in your blog.


imageOne of the organizations that hunt heavily on copyright infringement perpetrators is the notorious Getty Images. For this purpose they have acquired the company Picscout, leader in image tracing and identification. Images of crawled pages are scanned on patterns (even when only an excerpt of the image is used) for any infringement. Although there are millions of websites, you should not take it too lightly to grab random images from the web. It could be easily so that soon you have a legal matter to deal with.

ImageExchange for Chrome

An plugin for Google Chrome to identify if you have any copyrighted images on your page is ImageExchange, available in the Google extension store. Picscout claims that it handles 80% of the licensed material. With the plugin you can buy a license for the image, but it is also for checking your own website to check where you have to pay for or to remove content.  A add-on is also available for Firefox and Internet Explorer.

A few useful tips

Shoot yourself (not literally)

Where possible, shoot your own photo material. Take your smartphone or camera wherever you go and shoot pictures of all kinds of objects (avoid people if you want to publish it in your blog). For the real promotional eye catchers on your site, take a professional photographer.

Find free images

There are websites that are offering free images, but it can become quite a time consumer to find decent images for free. Use Wikipedia with the suggestions as stated earlier in mind.

An interesting source to look for is Flickr. There are a number of groups that publish most of their material under the creative commons license.

imageOn the website of Creative Commons you can find a link to help you find creative commons licensed stuff.

Buy images

That is always possible, but remember with this option even a small blog can become quite an expensive one. Images are not cheap (between 2 and 5 Euro per image).

But what about this:
When you make an image in a museum of a Picasso. Are you allowed to publish the photograph on your blog or is it copyright infringement, because of the content of the painting itself?


Ten things you might not know about images on Wikipedia
Wikipedia image use policy
Picscout – Solutions for image buyers and image licensors

Free or almost free images

Stockpicturedown – free images for use
qualitystockphotos (was Kozzi, almost free)

Hot tip!
Creative Commons search link

Johan van de Merwe
Dedicated to professional software development since 1985. Has worked since 1992 as IT manager in several international operating companies. Since 2007 CEO and Sencha Ext JS web application developer at Enovision GmbH.

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