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Copyright and Fair Use: Images

Digital Media

  • Everything on the Internet is NOT free to reuse
    • Copyright protects digital items just as it does physical ones. However, in the digital environment it can be very difficult to see what copyright or license applies and even more difficult to track down a creator to ask for permission. So what can you do?
  • Use media with stated licenses
    • This includes Creative Commons and Public Domain; these works will be clearly labeled so that you understand what you need to do to edit or reuse them.
  • See if your situation qualifies as "Fair Use"
    • If you are using these materials in the classroom, as a student or instructor, your work may be subject to different guidelines. Remember, you will still need to provide citation information to give proper credit to your sources.
  • Create your own media
    • Thanks to technology, creating your own images and media is easier than ever before. 
  • Purchase the right to use items
    • There are many sites where you can pay to be able to use images, videos, etc. We recommend pursuing the other three options first!

Stated Licenses (Creative Commons & Public Domain Images)

  • Not filtered by license - Results will include images that are protected under copyright (All Rights Reserved). They may be usable under Fair Use with proper attribution, but we recommend that you select another option. 
  • Reuse - Results will be Creative Commons or public domain images that allow you to reuse them. Look for the individual license to know what specifically you need to do to reuse the image. Alt. term: free to use or share.
  • Modification - You can change these images however you would like. Include adding borders, making collages, etc
  • Noncommercial use  - You cannot use these images for commercial purposes. 

Flickr Advanced search Creative Commons options


  • If you re-enter a search in the top box of Flickr, it sometimes loses your Creative Commons limiter. You can reset it by selecting Creative Commons from the License drop-down list.
  • Results are ranked by relevance. You can change this to see "Interesting" photos that have been viewed, tagged, commented on, and favorited most.

Flickr results page limiters


Key information underneath the photo tells you who its creator is, how many times the photo has been viewed, and any provided details about the type of photograph or camera used. On the far right, you will see three icons. The second icon (arrow pointing right) allows you to share the photo and gives a direct url back to the image. The third icon (arrow pointing down) allows you to select a size and download the photo.

Under these icons, you'll see the date the photo was taken. Directly underneath is the photo's license. You can click on the hyperlink to see the actual Creative Commons license and specific details about requirements for reuse.

Options beneath a Flickr image show number of views, date taken, license, and download information


  • Browse through categories or use the search feature at the top of the page. Images are nested in categories and folders; if you don't appreciate their search interface, remember that Google Image searches will return items within Wikimedia Commons.


If you can get to the Image File page, you'll be set. You may have to click on "More Details about this File" to get to this page.

  • There are helpful options to the right of the image on this page. You can download the file and get information about how to reuse the file in various ways. License information, image url, and author information is provided.

  • License information is provided in an easier way if you continue to scroll down on this page. There will be a section labeled "License" that gives an explanation of the image license and links to additional information too.

Wikimedia commons image license

The images found in the sites below can be used in any way, even without attribution.

  • Openclipart - A collection of free clip art images, which can be used without restriction.
  • clker - Free clip art and other images. 
  • Pixabay - Free photos and images.
  • Flickr Commons - Images from archives that are free of known copyright restrictions. Be sure to use the search located halfway through the page, rather than the main Flickr search engine. You can also browse through the images at New Old Stock.
  • Kaboompicks - Free stock photos.
  • Public Domain Archive - Free stock photos.
  • morguefile - Free stock photos. Be sure to only use images found under the "morgueFile" tab in search results.
  • StockPhotosForFree - Free stock photos. Requires you to create an account.
  • Freerange - Free stock photos. Requires you to create an account.

Attributing Images


Your attribution should follow this format, which adheres to Creative Commons best practices.

Title of image/video [linked to original image] by Author [linked to profile page] under License [linked to license deed].


Your attribution should follow this format:

Title of work [linked to original image] by AuthorDate (if known, or n.d. if not known). Public Domain.

The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association does not have guidelines for images, artwork, sculpture, photographs, etc.  However, here are some guidelines from the APA Style Blog:


Creator, A. (Date Posted). Caption text [Medium]. Retrieved from http://website.url

  • If no caption is provided, place a description of the image in brackets in its place.
  • If you are are citing a photo album, replace the caption text with the title of the album. Italicize the title.



Arist, A. (Year Created). Title of work [Medium]. Location of work: Institution housing work.

  • If you are viewing the piece online, leave off the location information for the piece. Instead, end your citation entry with "Retrieved from http://website.url"


Edit or Create your Own Images