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Public domain clip art refers to a specific type of digital image that is free to download and use without the need to ask the original artist’s permission or pay any royalty fees. This type of public domain art often includes pictures, illustrations, and small graphics known as icons. The image owners have typically released their work from copyright restrictions or allowed those rules to expire. This kind of open source art is freely available for any users' purposes such as presentations, Web pages, and print advertising.
The practice of making images and graphics freely available for others to use stems from the ideas behind the open source movement. Proponents of copyright-free art believe that images and graphics are improved when they are shared among as many individuals as possible. This type of collaboration places more value on creative quality rather than how much royalty revenue any given clip art image may generate.
Although royalty free images come without any costs, users do have a few rules to follow in terms of fair use. Since a piece of public domain clip art does not have an existing copyright, users can not add their own copyrights to an image after downloading it. This rule ensures the image remains free for anyone else to use as well. It also prevents some users from taking credit for something they did not create.
Using public domain clip art for business and commercial purposes also has some restrictions. Images that visibly contain copyrighted logos often require written permission from the logo owner before using the images in advertising or on websites meant to generate a profit. Some images depicting people may not be classified as copyright free art unless there is a verifiable record of a signed model release form. Laws concerning fair use clip art may be stricter in some countries and regions, so users should check them first if they have any doubts whether a piece of clip art is entirely in the public domain.
Online resources for public domain clip art are plentiful. Some sites are more careful about adhering to fair use laws, and a high-quality site will usually contain only royalty free images that have been screened to ensure they are completely released from copyrights and do not contain any trademarked material. Social image sharing sites are another source for clip art, though users should exercise a bit more caution before saving images from these sites; often not all material on them is public domain clip art.