Oh great, another license. Why?
In short, because we feel there is no common license for free stock media (photos, illustrations, icons, textures and other images), that properly balances the current needs of designers vs. the rights of image creators.
The majority of free stock images are licensed either under a CC0 (Creative Commons Public Domain) license or a mishmash of custom licenses that loosely define allowed uses. We aim to provide a common license that is, to most users, indistinguishable from CC0, but restricts uses that many photographers find objectionable.
Why not CC0?
As a user, CC0 is a great license. There are no restrictions, so do anything you want! The images are released into the public domain, so there's no need to worry about where they came from or how you can use them.
But for some artists and photographers, it can seem a bit predatory and unbalanced. In order to distribute your work on some very large websites, you have to give up your rights to the image forever. Many times, images are quickly scraped and reposted over and over to other sites or instantly posted for sale, with no link or credit to the original photographer. We think that the rights to control distribution and directly profit from images should remain with the photographer.
Why not one of the other Creative Commons licenses?
Great question. The simple answer is that we think they are actually too restrictive to be useful in practical day-to-day use. Attribution, while easy in many journalistic settings, is cumbersome as a requirement and is a strong disincentive to many users. It makes sense for images to be licensed under other CC licenses in some cases, but we did not find a CC license that fit how many people use images today.
Are these images Copyright Free?
No, the images are copyrighted - just like all stock photos are generally copyrighted and licensed for use. If you've ever used a stock photo (other than a Public Domain or CC0) image, you were using a licensed image. The license may be perpetual, and generous, and royalty-free, but it is still a license. If you go to a major stock photo site and "buy" a photo, you're still only buying a license to use the image, not the image itself.
Can I modify the images?
Yes, that's certainly allowed
Can I sell or relicense these images?
No. The license is bound to the image, and it cannot be overridden, except by the original photographer.
Are the images model and property released?
The license does not affect the release status, so refer to the individual site, author or image provider.
Can I paint a picture of an image and resell it?
This can be a difficult question. You cannot copy a photo and sell it, even if the copy is paint. You can use a photo as inspiration, and you can use parts of photos to make your own new thing, but you can just reproduce the photo for sale.
Can I use the image in a website template or theme?
You can use the image as sample content to show how great your theme or template looks when populated with photos, but you cannot include the images in the download package with the theme. (The users who install the template can download the image just as you did, and they are free to use the same licensed images, but they need to acquire the image themselves.)