Compiled by Rebecca Ramsey, Indiana University
Why does it matter where I find images for use in my teaching or other materials?
Nearly all original works (such as images, text, audio recordings, etc.) are protected by copyright for a length of time. Copyright provides legal protection to certain exclusive rights of the content’s creator, such as the right to share/distribute the work, make copies, and so on. These rights may be voluntarily waived by the creator, if the creator desires.
Many images found through a Google search or similar methods may not clearly provide information about the copyright status or owner, but that does not mean they do not fall under this legal protection! Penalties are possible when infringing these legal rights, so it is always best to seek out public domain or other restriction-free images. Copyright law asks that you give due diligence to understanding who owns the rights to works you share and how you are allowed to use them.
What does copyright protection mean?
“All rights reserved.” – You may not reuse the work in any way (outside of fair use or other specific exceptions) without specific permission from the creator.
What is the “Public Domain”?
The Public Domain is a collection of works to which copyright protections do not apply. Works enter the Public Domain in a number of ways:
- Once copyright expires
- If certain formalities are not met by the creator
- If the creator specifically dedicates their work to the Public Domain (by rejecting claim to any rights)
“No rights reserved.” – You may reuse the work in any way, with no permission or attribution necessary.
How can I find images I can safely use in my materials?
When searching for images that you will share widely and without any attribution necessary, make sure you are using images that fall into one of these categories:
- You own the copyright and therefore can use the image however you wish.
- Pictures that are in the public domain or have been dedicated to the public domain.
- Pictures for which the copyright holder has given you express permission for use without attribution necessary.
- Pictures by friends/family are a good option, or if there are specific images on a website that are important to your education purpose then CeLT can help you ask for permission.
What about fair use, Creative Commons, or other options?
There are a number of exceptions to “all rights reserved” copyright protection with which you might be familiar, such as fair use (in specific situations) or Creative Commons licenses (which allow creators to designate certain ways others may use their works without seeking permission). However, when preparing materials you’ll be sharing widely, it is usually best to find images without restrictions or requirements.
To learn more about creating derivative works from works under copyright protection, we recommend this excellent overview on Wikimedia Commons. If you have further questions, please contact us or the campus copyright librarian.
Public Domain image resources:
- https://pixabay.com -- All images on Pixabay are free to use in any manner. (These are public domain or have a public domain dedication.)
- https://unsplash.com/-- All images on Unsplash are free to use in any manner. (These are public domain or have a public domain dedication.)
- https://pdpics.com/-- All images on PDPics are free to use in any manner. (These are public domain or have a public domain dedication.)
- https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/pdm-1.0/-- Images found through this search link (not the search bar at the top of the page, but rather the one under “Explore/Creative Commons”) on Flickr are in the public domain and are all free to use in any manner.
- https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/cc0-1.0/-- Images found through this search on Flickr have a public domain dedication (meaning that the copyright owner has waived his/her rights) and are all free to use in any manner.
- https://search.creativecommons.org/-- The Creative Commons search is also helpful, but be aware that not all of the results have the appropriate licensing for your uses. After searching for your desired search term, use the filter on the left side of the screen to select only images that are “CC0” or “Public Domain Mark.”