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Dash of Inspiration: To Use or Not to Use

January 18, 2016


That is the question you must ask yourself before you purchase clip-art or graphics and before you download free 3rd party elements; and use them in your designs. Be smart and choose wisely, and your designs will make money for you for years to come.

  • FREE does not automatically mean Free for Commercial Use (CU) – AND – Free for Commercial Use does not automatically mean you can use it in a design you sell for resale to make money.
  • If the TOU (Terms of Use) do not CLEARLY state one or more of the following then you should be very cautious:
    • Okay to incorporate the elements in designs you sell.
    • May be used for any commercial purpose
    • Carries both CU and CU4CU licenses.
    • Is licensed through a CC (Creative Commons) license which allows CU and allows derivatives.
    • Is dedicated to Public Domain
  • Be sure you understand that a site which states CU (Commercial Use) is okay, does not automatically mean it’s okay to use to make a profit. CU may be allowed for use in your business as a website banner, as a business card image or on a flier – BUT – that does not mean you can SELL the image in whole or in part of a design for profit.
  • If the TOU state “not okay for selling on POD’s like Zazzle, Cafe Press“, then it’s not okay to sell on GCU either.
  • Make sure you understand that when the TOU say; “No As Is Usage” or “Must not contribute to the core value of the design.” that you understand what that means –AND – that you understand that GCU no longer allows ANY 3rd party graphics or photographs to be used As Is, regardless of whether you have permission or not.
  • PAY ATTENTION! Licensing can change, it’s rare, but it happens as it recently did with Creative Market. Their Simple License went to a Standard License in December of 2015 and they added the Extended License. If you purchased graphics without the Extended License (EL) from them in the past, then you must go back and purchase the EL in order to use those graphics in designs you sell. It is up to you as the artist to follow TOU and changes to licensing, and it’s you who will be sued and have your designs pulled if you don’t.
  • Lastly, remember that EVERY 3rd party element used to create your card design needs to be listed in your Notes to Reviewer with a link to the item page showing both the item used and the TOU.

Here are some other blog posts which may be helpful:

Understanding TOU

Sources and Credits

No As Is Policy at GCU


Remember only two weeks left for our January Dash of Inspiration Design Challenge!

Come join us!



2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2016 4:44 pm

    Good article – thanks Doreen – I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve e-mailed people to double check that I can use the respective design elements within designs to go on products to be offered for sale because it’s not 100% clear in the TOUs.

    • January 19, 2016 5:11 pm

      Thank you, Natalie. I get it. I don’t do much inquiry anymore. I figure that if they can not clearly spell out in their TOU what I may and may not do with the graphics, then they are equally likely to change their TOU at some point, or to say “You can do that, but I didn’t say you could do this.” Not worth it IMO. When I create a design, I do not want any limitations on where or how I may sell my work. There are so many great goodies to design with which are free from the uncertainty. 🙂

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