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Copywrite infringement?
I'm looking at some of these photos online that people submit to freeware sites for public use and what not. There are tons of great stuff to play around with as well as some amazing photos I personally would never give out for free.

Even though they posted/uploaded it to these websites for public use, is it still illegal to use them in your work? If you buy them do you own the photo or just get a copy of it?

Also, if anyone knows any good websites to find cool background or photos that are totally 100% free please let me know!
No hard rules. The owner keeps the copyright, so as long as you don't redistribute them, you can do whatever you want.

If you post one in a forum, the worst that can happens is a take-down notice (sent to the forum admin...).

Otherwise, it can depend on the rules of the site where you found the picture. Some picture sites required that posted material is CC-BY-SA or better, so you are fine as long as your own derivative is also CC-BY-SA.
All the photos I use are royalty free so I should be good

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