No, although often if it was shot before 1940 then you can.
To be on the safe side I would stick to stuff from trusted commons sites, such as Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
They have some wonderful stuff. Keep an eye on their picture of the day.
Full usage details of all images are included on the page. You should honor those, crediting them at the end of your preview.
Make sure you sign a release form for yourself so that you can prove you have allowed yourself this privilege! -f.
Be a little careful with flickr images where the images are of an identifiable individual. I wonder quite often when there is a picture of an individual whether the individual has signed a model release for the photographer. If the photographer is putting them image in the public domain, then they should know and I guess if you take their statement in good faith, then that makes them responsible.
But it’s worth knowing the ins and outs. I’ve seen a couple of sites with people putting ‘public domain’ images up with the disclaimer that the people or locations pictured may not have model / location releases.
I really prefer Wikipedia commons as it really spells out the licences with every single image, explaining why the image is in the public domain and how you may or may not use it. The number of creative commons licences are many and varied and some are not valid in some parts of the world. Since the internet is viewable in all parts of the world, I’m not sure how this works. Presumably something to do with where the site is hosted?
But if the image with recognizable face is only used in preview – you don’t need a model’s release – as long as it’s licensed for commercial usage. only case when you do need a models release is when you include the image with the file, but then you need it licensed for resale as well.
Did not know that. Thanks for the tip