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Changes to Photo Site Unsplash


Unsplash, a popular website for free-to-use high-quality “stock” photographs, has recently changed their licensing for using their photos, going from CC0 to something more bespoke.

Much confusion ensued, and is continuing to ensue.

Full disclosure, I love(d) using their photographs for the other blog I run and write for.


I had been, earlier in that same week, Tweeting about browsing the Unplash website, using certain search terms to see what kinds of results I got.

(FYI – Colorstock is a great alternative. But there is a whole other blog post(s) to be written about this.)

As a direct result of my tweeting about this, I was tagged with this news from Creative Commons:

And thus began the great debate about licensing and open. At the core of the issue is that Unsplash no longer explicitly state that the use of the photos is irrevocable; in other words, they can’t change the conditions under which you would use the photos after the fact. Another issues is around the use of Unsplash’s API, where they are now requiring attribution.

Unsplash sought to clarify their stance, and Creative Commons updated their initial piece. Around the two main issues, Unsplash said the following:

To be clear: our intention is that the Unsplash License is sublicensable and non-revocable. In the coming days, we will clarify our Terms to make this even more clear.


We make it very clear that attribution is only required from the API integrators, not the user of the API. There is no ‘depending’. If you download an image on Unsplash or via an Unsplash integration through a third party, it does not require attribution. If you’re an app developer, it requires attribution.

This discussion is clearly ongoing. On the one hand, I can understand why Unsplash would like some attribution for the service they are providing, which is maintaining the website and the API. On the other hand, one has to wonder about the definition of “Open moving forward, as well as the idea of attribution: who or what are we attributing?

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