The main difference between a stock photo and a public domain image lies in the copyright status and usage rights. Here’s a breakdown of each:

  1. Stock Photo:
    • Copyright Status: Stock photos are images that are typically protected by copyright. Photographers, illustrators, or creators own the rights to these images.
    • Licensing: To use a stock photo, you usually need to license it. Stock photo licenses can vary and may include conditions such as attribution requirements, limitations on usage (e.g., commercial or editorial use), and the need for model releases for images featuring recognizable individuals.
    • Source: Stock photos are often available on specialized platforms or agencies where photographers and creators contribute their work for licensing.
  2. Public Domain Image:
    • Copyright Status: Public domain images are not protected by copyright or the copyright has expired. This means they are free to use without restrictions.
    • Licensing: Public domain images do not require a license because they are not bound by copyright. Users have the freedom to use, modify, and distribute these images without legal restrictions.
    • Source: Public domain images can come from various sources, including works whose copyright has expired, images released into the public domain by the creator, or government-produced images that are automatically in the public domain.

In summary, the key distinction is that stock photos are protected by copyright, and you must obtain a license to use them, while public domain images are not protected by copyright, and you can use them freely without licensing. When using stock photos, it’s important to adhere to the licensing terms specified by the copyright holder or the stock photo agency. Public domain images, on the other hand, offer greater flexibility in use but may still have certain considerations, such as ensuring that the image is genuinely in the public domain.

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