The difference between using free images vs GPL images

Nowadays, the digital world has advanced to a point in which it lets us all be creative and inspiring, but most importantly, productive and helpful to the society. In that manner, as developers we have redefined the world of sharing with creating a place for all designers and making their jobs easier.

Now, every designer knows that the popularity of his images will definitely link back to him in the first place. However, many people tend to overlook one of the essential things when ‘stealing’ an image and just copying it into their blogs – the license part. As developers, we understand this point to the maximum and today, are sharing the story of how photo licenses work, what is the best way to use a photo and with what terms does the usage come for every designer.

The difference between royalty free and licensed images

First of all, you cannot just steal an image that you find on a blog, Google or any other source. Apart from the fact that there are unprotected images under a license that is called Creative Commons, most of the photos that you can find online are protected with a subject to copyright, or in other words, meaning that only the person who took them has the exclusive rights to the images.

There is a basic rule that our society thought of and made certain online licenses for using other people’s work. Mainly, using other people’s work comes with two basic licenses that you, as a designer, have to understand and practice when using photos for your work – the Creative Commons and GPL licenses.

So, what are they and how do we, as developers, intend them to be used by you, as designers?

© copyright

What is creative commons?

The Creative Commons set of licenses are basically sources in which you can carelessly use any image – simply because the photographers who took them have given up their rights on it and they obviously don’t mind if you use it in your blog – which you can under this (the CC) license – link:

Obviously, if you care too much about your blog and even take pictures on your behalf, you will know this. However, many people are jeopardizing this right that may lead to a copyright issue, ending badly for the person who ‘stole’ the image. As developers, we understand this and, therefore, we link to the Creative Commons work as the best way to use an image – however without the right to edit it and eventually change the idea behind it.

Things to know about the GPL license

The GPL (General Public License) license is also known as the ultimate license in which you can use images under a special source code, but also modify them.

Simply because many users have copied images and taken their freedom in doing the same with software and other files, the GPL license has been developed to help you with every image.

Now, the fundamental importance of the GPL License, as opposed to any other, is that you can use them in commercial purposes. Moreover, it allows you to modify any image that you download. While many other sources guarantee only the use of the image as ‘safe to use’, the GPL License is the one you should be using if you need to download a royalty-free image and modify it, whether you attach a logo to it, text or any kind of banner.

Creative Commons

Compared to the free images you can find on Creative Commons, the GPL allows you to copy, modify and edit its images – all things that you cannot do with the Creative Commons license. In a nutshell, if you want to use the images only without any accreditation legally – you should use Creative Commons, and if you are looking for pictures that can be edited or for commercial purposes – GPL is the best option to go for.

So…. The question all of you ask at this point probably goes like:

Does your work need a license?

You should know that your design, photography, blog articles, audio or video come with an ‘all rights reserved’ policy – unless you publish them under a license that reserves some rights for itself or sell them to an end-user that holds the rights.

However, what most of you do not know is when using services such as Twitter and Facebook, you are actually giving these websites full rights to your work – so they can distribute it in a way within their terms of service and operate their content with actually – your content!

The main difference in these domains is that Flickr adopts the Creative Commons license and you can protect your images under it. However, many Web services don’t do that, which is why you should be careful in where you publish your work and what rights do you give away, especially if you are designer or developer of some kind.

Some of the most popular royalty-free image sources

It is all simple and it comes down to this – if you want to use images for your website or blog, Creative Commons is the way to search images and use them. If you want to edit basic images and eventually put your information onto them, you can use a bunch of websites such as:

MyStock - Madalin Milea








Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.16.42 AM


The main difference between the GPL and Creative Commons licenses is that the GPL is designed primarily for software, while Creative Commons supports all kinds of creative works, from images to music.

With the CC license, you have the rights to copy, modify and redistribute the materials only if you have the author’s permission for doing that, while the GPL license grants you to copy, modify or redistribute the software or media with only ensuring that the same rights are preserved in the works, which in other words means that as long as you don’t modify the image for a completely another manner, using images under the GPL License method is the best and allows the most freedom.

3 thoughts on “The difference between using free images vs GPL images”

  1. I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else
    encountering prlblems with your website. It appears
    as though some of the written text inn your conteent are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if tgis is
    happening to them as well? This could bbe a issue with my web browser because I’ve had
    this haplen before. Thanks

    1. Hey there,

      Thank you for your reply. I have tried to replicate your issue, and I wasn’t able. Could you please give me an image with the problem or a short video?

      When do you encounter that issue?

  2. The main difference between the GPL and Creative Commons licenses is that the GPL is designed primarily for software, while Creative Commons supports all kinds of creative works, from images to music.

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