General Question

gunther's avatar

Is there anyplace to find public domain images of celebrities?

Asked by gunther (169points) December 15th, 2014

Suppose I wanted to put a picture of Bob Dylan on my (for-profit) website. Is there any place I could go to find an image of him that I could use on my site without paying for usage rights?

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4 Answers

Buttonstc's avatar

There are a few images of Dylan at:

However, you did say your site is for profit, so if you receive a cease and desist letter from Dylan’s lawyers, be prepared to remove it.

However, I did notice a few things about the images. Some are stylized drawing for postage stamps of foreign nations. Presumably they are the ones who own the rights to them so pretty unlikely they will notice your site.

Secondly, a couple of those pics are of him with Pres. Obama (giving him some type of award).

Now, I’m not an expert on this by any means and you should definitely research this carefully, but I recall reading about any photos in the National Archives being available as public domain. So, if those pics are in there, you should likely be ok.

I know that there was a photo of a famous bridge of WW II (Remagen) which was used for commercial purposes on commemorative plates being sold.

I know that there are some photos of Nixon and Elvis in there which are some of the few of Elvis which are public domain.

But you should carefully check put the legal parameters. Just because I or that site think they’re public domain doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the absolute truth. Do your own research and fact checking.

But at least the pics on that site give you a start. Good luck.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Buttonstc Good point about the National Archives – photographs in their “online collection” are in the public domain, but note according to their FAQ, “a few images on other areas of our web site have been obtained from other organizations and that these are always credited. Permission to use these photographs should be obtained directly from those organizations.”.

Buttonstc's avatar

That’s an excellent clarification. I didn’t realize that the National Archives contained photos from other orgs.

I figured that the reason photos in the NA (such as the Elvis-Nixon) were public domain is because they were done at taxpayers expense so we have already paid for them with our tax dollars.

But obviously that doesn’t apply to those from other orgs.

Good to know.

Presumably (if it’s in the NA already) the Dylan-Obama photo was taken by the White House photographer is public domain so the OP could crop out the Obama half and just use Dylan.

But, it would be interesting to see what Dylan and his lawyers would have to say about someone else’s commercial use of it since he presumably has the right to control the usage of his image regardless of who took the photo :)

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Buttonstc Yes, I suspect photos from other organizations represent a small portion of their holdings. I only mention it because the OP is specifically looking for copyright information.

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