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Where To Find Free Web Icons

Web icons (also called web 2.0 icons) are a popular design tool and are used frequently on professional websites and blogs. Though there are many places to find free web icons for use on your site, the fine print tells a different story. Most free icon sets are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. The current license version (3.0) specifies that you are free to

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike License1) Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
2) Remix – to adapt the work.

However, the following condition applies: Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Most authors state that you must either link back to their site (prominently displayed, the closer to their work, the better) or display their copyright information (e.g. ©2010 Their Name) on or next to the work.

GNU Lesser General Public LicenseThe other license that is often encountered with web icons is the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). This is a license for free software libraries (as opposed to executable programs). The important part of this license as it applies to digital artwork (icons libraries in this case) is:

If you modify your copy or copies of the library or any portion of it, you may distribute the resulting library provided you do so under the GNU Lesser General Public License. However, programs that link to the library may be licensed under terms of your choice, so long as the library itself can be changed. Any translation of the GNU Lesser General Public License must be accompanied by the GNU Lesser General Public License.

The way we interpret this (disclaimer: this is not legal advice and should not be taken as such) is that using free icons from the library in your site design still allows visitors to your site to copy the image and use it under the LGPL. They may not, however, take anything else from your site without your permission.

The best license is the free one, where the creator indicates that their works are free for personal or commercial use (as long as you don’t sell them as your own original web icons or use them in templates you intend to sell).

When creating your website, you want the content and images to flow together in a cohesive design. For that reason, you don’t want an attribution to each artist under all web icons you use since they are often part of the page design (as opposed to captioned pictures). Often you can place these links on a separate “resources” page or bury them in your “about us” page. Read the license for any link placement rules. If there are none, you can use the separate page idea. We have searched the web far and wide for free web icons and present you the list below.

As we locate more high-quality free web icons, we will add them to this page. As a side note, if you are going to use specific social media icons and web 2.0 icons (such as Facebook, Digg, etc.) to link to their respective sites, then you can get these logos from anywhere. Since you would be using them to link back to their owner sites, you typically don’t have to worry about licensing if you use the original logos. However, if you use custom social media icons that someone has created, be sure to read and follow the licensing requirements set forth by the designer.



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