New Google Image Usage Rights

Earlier today Matt Cutts of Google tweeted about a new feature on Google’s Image Search:

It’s a new tool that allows users to filter their image search results by Usage Rights, allowing them to only find images that have various Creative Commons licences.

You can find it by clicking the Search tools button beneath the search box, and then clicking the Usage Rights drop-down:

screenshot of Google Images

No information has yet been provided by Google on how they detect the usage rights assigned to any image on a web page, but it’s highly probable that they detect the standard Creative Commons RDFa code snippet that you can generate using the wizard at

As an experiment, I’ve decided to release one of my own images under a Creative Commons licence using the code snippet, which is below. The purpose of this experiment is to find out whether Google will correctly extract the usage rights embedded in the RDFa. It’ll probably take a week or more for Google to index this, but I’ll update this post if/when they do.

Badb Catha 2 photograoh by Paul Watson

Creative Commons Licence
Badb Catha (2) by Paul Watson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Why Should an Artist make their Artwork free to share?

I don’t think an artist should necessarily make their artwork free-to-share, but I do think there may be some advantages in an artist deciding to make screen-resolution photographs/scans of their artwork free-to-share, and it’s something I intend to do over the course of 2014.

There’s a great quote by Tim O'Reilly:

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”

Tim O'Reilly -, 2002.

I want my properly-attributed scans of my artwork to have as much exposure as possible – more exposure means more sales of my artwork.

One thing that can help this is to clearly indicate that I’m happy for people to use screen-resolution photographs/scans of my artwork on their blogs (or website, Facebook, or Google+…) freely so long as they attribute the artwork to me.

I might also decide that I want to restrict it to non-commercial use only – and if so that’s fine, there’s a specific Creative Commons licence for that as well.

This isn’t a new idea: photographer Ellen Rogers has had a “Bloggable Images” sub-domain on her website for some time now, which actively encourages people to share these particular photographs of hers:

“This site is for all the lovely people out there in the blogoshpere who need to quickly find the photos they want to use on their blog. My images seem to find themselves with all sorts of strange crops and edits from blog to blog. I know I’m partly to blame for having had such an awkward website in the past but if you could find the time to download the images from here and use them on your blogs I’d be very grateful. Thank you, Ellen.”

Ellen’s work is great, by the way – I’ve bought both of her books as well as a large print of one of her photographs – proof, if needed, that making online images shareable doesn’t stop you selling your actual artwork.