Unsplash images are no longer in the public domain (creativecommons.org)

over 6 years ago from , Designer

This post previously linked to an article written by Creative Commons that was inaccurate at best. Amongst other claims Creative Commons incorrectly stated that the new Unsplash license was revocable.


  • Nick NobleNick Noble, over 6 years ago

    Well fuck.

    31 points
  • Tiffany Ta, over 6 years ago

    Looks like the only change they're trying to make is to stop copycat Unsplash sites and that there's no change to how people are currently using their images. https://twitter.com/stephliverani/status/877962056204304384


    30 points
  • Jacob CooperJacob Cooper, over 6 years ago

    So... wondering if I get this right: A side project that was radical with the idea of sharing by default images in the public domain gets love from a community, grows with and because of its community, becomes a company, gets money from investors, and hey... here we switch to start milking the community. This is smelly, isn't it? Why?.

    22 points
    • Rizwan Javaid, over 6 years ago

      Yeah, it's a shady move by them.

      8 points
    • Stephanie Liverani, over 6 years ago

      Hey Jacob,

      The change in the Unsplash License affects mainly those copycat sites that pull images from Unsplash, slap them on their site, and don't credit (or properly credit contributors). We were receiving countless complaints from our community, and felt that this is not the type of usage that we want to support.

      We elaborated on that here: https://community.unsplash.com/help-section/what-is-the-unsplash-license-and-where-can-i-find-it

      and in our Manifesto: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/manifesto

      The Unsplash License is very similar to the CC0 License, in that it supports creativity, free usage of photos under personal and commercial use, and it is sub-licensable and nonrevokable.

      It's unfortunate that the article shared by the CC team portrays the License in such a way that is different to CC0, but the spirit is still the same.

      We felt that it was important to share our point of view, so we put together this response to the Creative Commons post: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc

      Hope this clarifies, but it would be my pleasure to answer any additional questions you may have.


      17 points
      • Chiron ZorChiron Zor, over 6 years ago

        Well, the main point of CC0 is to waive every right.

        So, no. The Unsplash License is not similar to CC0.

        If people want credit, they could use CC BY.

        Once been CC0, the photos are loosed in the wild. You can do nothing to how they have been used. The people who complained didn't understand CC0 correctly.

        What Unsplash could do, is adding more option like CC BY, and inform people how CC0 works.

        What Unsplash did, is purely selfish and business driven.

        6 points
        • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

          CC BY has nothing to do with what we were addressing when we made the change. Attribution is not required on the Unsplash License. The only change is with regards to redistributing the photos.

          As I explain below, this is something that has been requested by our community for years because of the real-world flaws with CC0.

          We make the reasons for the change very clear here https://community.unsplash.com/articles/unsplashlicense

          1 point
  • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

    Hey DN, I'm Luke one of the cofounders of Unsplash. We've been building Unsplash for 5 years with the vision that beautiful photos be free to share and use. Nothing about that has changed. It's what makes Unsplash special.

    A week ago we released a revised version of our license and terms that moved photos that are released in the future to not use CC0. The revised license is exactly like CC0 minus one change: you cannot mass download the library for redistribution as a competing service. You can still download all photos for free, use them without credit (though we entourage credit), and use them in commercial or personal works. Nothing about that has changed.

    We did not make the license change lightly: we worked with our community of contributors for the last two years and this change addresses many of their complaints and the legal issues that have arisen from redistribution.

    The CC article linked here unfortunately gets many points wrong. As commenters have pointed out, CC has a vested interest in Unsplash staying under a CC license, since they receive funding from donors based on the communities they support. We've written up a response to the CC article that addresses many of the points that they get wrong: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc

    We've also written up a bunch of FAQs that answer common questions about the license: https://community.unsplash.com/help-section/what-is-the-unsplash-license-and-where-can-i-find-it

    We're answering any and all questions regarding the license, here, on twitter (@unsplash) or via email (friends@unsplash.com).

    19 points
    • Chiron ZorChiron Zor, over 6 years ago

      Here's the difference:

      CC0 = I waive every right of this photo, it is now in public domain. Everyone can use it whatever they want.

      the Unsplash License = I give this photo to Unsplash. It is now belong to Unsplash. It is not in public domain. People can use it mostly what they want, with one vaguely exception is you can't distribute it as a similar service.

      3 points
      • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

        You're absolutely right that public domain != the Unsplash License.

        But Unsplash was never made explicitly to be the public domain. What we wanted to do when we created Unsplash was create a resource for the real needs that the community has: finding beautiful, free high resolution photos that they can use. That doesn't require the photos to be in the public domain to accomplish. We chose CC0 at the time as the easiest way to accomplish our goal.

        CC0 and public domain have a lot of real-world flaws that our community has experienced over the past 5 years. These are real issues brought up by our contributors that under CC0 we've had no way to address until now.

        There are literally tens of thousands of sites reselling the photos contributed by Unsplash photographers. We've had thousands of amazing contributors stop sharing specifically because of this reason.

        Similarly, there are hundreds of sites recreating accounts or redistributing the photos on behalf of photographers. For the photographers they now have accounts that they can't access across hundreds of sites, many which display donation buttons, creating donations that the photographers never see. Imagine if when you wrote on Medium, hundreds of sites popped up and created accounts under your name and you had no way to stop or claim the accounts.

        That's a sad result because some of the most amazing photos have been lost because of this. Contributors who believed in the mission of sharing beautiful free photos for the reasons that we all love and use Unsplash have stopped contributing because of a side-effect of CC0 that has no benefit towards the mission of creating a community of beautiful free photos.

        What you need to understand at the end of the day is that Unsplash was never created to be a place for public domain photos. Flickr has existed long before Unsplash and makes that very easy. What Unsplash was created to do was make amazing high resolution photos available and easy to use for the real use cases that the creative community has. The Unsplash License changes nothing about that and our community has had an overwhelmingly positive response to the change.

        4 points
  • Matt Hirsch, over 6 years ago

    Can anyone confirm this is real? Nothing on Unsplash's site makes any mention of this including their license and terms sections.

    5 points
    • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

      Hey Matt, happy to confirm that this article gets most of the points wrong. It's true that we no longer use a license called CC0 but we instead created a new license that allows for all the same uses as CC0, minus mass compiling and redistribution on a competing service. All photos can still be used for free, for commercial or personal purposes, without requiring attribution.

      We've written up a response to their claims here if it helps https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc

      5 points
  • Tiffany Ta, over 6 years ago

    Does anyone know how this will affect Invision's use of Unsplash in their Craft plugin?

    5 points
    • Stephanie Liverani, over 6 years ago

      Hey Tiffany,

      There are no changes as the Unsplash License is similar in spirit to the CC0 (free to use, requires no attribution, license is unrevokable, can be used for commercial and personal use), except for one change: we do not allow users to scrape the photos from Unsplash to create copycat sites.

      We created this change to protect and support our contributors in a way that the CC0 License could not. More here: https://community.unsplash.com/help-section/what-is-the-unsplash-license-and-where-can-i-find-it

      We also wanted to share our points on Creative Commons' post, because some of the facts presented in that post aren't true. You can read that here: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc

      We try to support our contributors as much as we can, and we've been doing so since the early days. It's in our Manifesto, and the change in the Unsplash License allows us to do so.

      If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help!

      3 points
  • Stuart McCoyStuart McCoy, over 6 years ago

    While CC is updating their erroneous article, I wish they would fix their erroneous modal pop-up that doesn't go away even after clicking close.

    4 points
  • No NameNo Name, over 6 years ago

    By the looks of it, Unsplash isn't really doing this to harm or undercut users. Instead, they are trying to inhibit the growth of websites that use their API to build Unsplash competitors. Having seen Unsplash photos on sites like Pexels pulled in via API or scraping, this makes sense. They are just trying to protect their model and keep others from ripping off their idea with their own content.

    Seems fair—only part I don't like is the revocable license. Leaves a BIG window for abuse to occur, but I'm not too worried.

    4 points
    • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

      Hey Arix, unfortunately the CC article doesn't get the revocable part (among other things) right. The Unsplash License is irrevocable. The only thing we will stop doing at the discretion of the photographer is stop distribution of the photo if they delete the photo from Unsplash. However that doesn't make any uses or future uses of the photo any different: they're still allowed and free.

      4 points
    • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

      Note that we've updated the license's wording to specifically make clear that the Unsplash License is irrevocable.


      2 points
  • Andrew C, over 6 years ago

    This almost defeats their own competitive advantage—but I'll wait to see how they implement creative-commons photos before avoiding the site altogether.

    4 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, over 6 years ago

    Would have loved to read the article, but the stupid newsletter popup ad cannot be closed.

    3 points
  • M. AppelmanM. Appelman, over 6 years ago


    3 points
  • Skyler Hughes, over 6 years ago

    Hmm unsplash's site still says otherwise?

    2 points
  • Victor LVictor L, over 6 years ago

    It looks like this post was edited after it was initially posted. Was it edited by the original author or by a moderator? I cannot see the edit history of posts so I want to know who made the edit.

    1 point
  • Ratik SharmaRatik Sharma, over 6 years ago


    1 point
    • Luke ChesserLuke Chesser, over 6 years ago

      Hey Ratik,

      The article unfortunately gets a lot of points wrong. We no longer use CC0, but the photos are still free to use in both commercial and personal projects, and the license is not revocable, despite what the article says.

      We've written up a response that clarifies the article here: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc

      Happy to answer any questions.

      7 points
  • Joe Roberto, over 6 years ago

    SO LONG UNSPLASH! It was nice while you gave a fack.

    0 points
  • Sean Goodwin, over 6 years ago

    Pressure put on Crew by Tiny?

    0 points