Wikimedia Commons

Everyone knows the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia. But interestingly enough, far fewer know about its Wikimedia Commons. And if you’re a content creator and/or wordpreneur, that’s practically unforgivable!

Wikimedia Commons is an online repository of free educational media assets (images, sound files, videos, etc.). Almost 90 million of them so far, and it’s constantly growing. Why it matters to us is that those assets are in the public domain or some form of free-to-use license. You know all those images you see on Wikipedia? The Commons is where they’re from.

Having all those media assets would be next to useless if you can’t find what you need. But that’s not a problem: the Commons has a powerful built-in search engine.

Enter penguin, for instance, and as of this writing, it quickly gives you 19,796 penguin-related images to browse through, 31 audio files (have you ever wondered what little penguins in New Zealand calling out at dusk sound like?), and 91 video clips of the chubby black-and-white cuties.

But are they free to use? Let’s see. Clicking on one of the images reveals some details about it, and we can see immediately that yes, it’s “Public domain.” Totally free to use. Heck, you can do anything with that image, even resell it and only it if you’re so inclined. It isn’t the highest of resolutions, with the original image only being 1,088 x 710 pixels in size, but that’s definitely good enough for online use. In fact, it’s likely larger than you’d need; clicking through, however, we can see it’s also made available in several smaller sizes. Cool! You probably won’t even need to bother resizing the image for use.

But there’s a prettier image next to it. Let’s check that one. Ah, this one’s distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Clicking through, we learn what we’re technically allowed to do with it as long as we follow the attribution restriction, which is practically nothing more than “must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.” No need to even request permission. This prettier image even comes at a higher resolution than the first one—3,989 × 2,652—making it suitable for a book in print.

See how easy that was? Of course, searching through millions of images is significantly more than just a chore, so having some Search Fu skills will come in really handy.

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