“Can writers use photos from Wikipedia for free?”

“Can writers use photos from Wikipedia for free?”

Q – 

I’d like to use photos from Wikipedia in my next book. It looks like I can use them for free. Is this true? I don’t want to make the mistake of violating someone’s copyright.


A –

This issue came up last week when one of our authors submitted a manuscript with several photos that were obviously pulled from the Internet. I, of course, asked him where he obtained the photos and he said some of them were from Wikipedia. I then used Google’s image search option to find them and they definitely were NOT in the public domain.

Wikipedia makes it appear that you can use photos from their site. However, despite the disclaimers and attribution verbiage posted on Wikipedia, we definitely do NOT recommend using any photos from that site.

People from all over can upload files to that site and, naturally, some of those people won’t know and/or respect copyright law. Copyright infringement penalties can range from a few hundred dollars for accidental use to tens of thousands or more for intentional infringement.

As proof that not all photos used on that site are legal, they have a place on their website for people to report copyright infringement appearing on there.

Just because a website states you can use photos that were uploaded by others, YOU can still get sued for copyright infringement for using those photos yourself.

“Ignorantia legis neminem excusat (Latin for ‘ignorance of law excuses no one.’)”
Source: Wikipedia (Yes, that’s where I really found the quote!)

If you need stock photos for your book or article, I recommend purchasing them from a site like iStockPhoto.com or Dreamstime.com.

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