Skip to main content
OCCC banner image with library photo

Finding Images: Using Images Legally

Find free sources for images and learn about copyright as it pertains to images.

How can I legally use images I found online?

Images found online are not automatically free for anyone to copy and re-use.  The original creator of the image has the right to limit how that image is used, and may ask for compensation.

You should consider the following when selecting online images:

Copyright: Copyright protection, a legal right granted to the creator of an image, may restrict a student's ability to reuse that image.  Frequently students will assume that by citing an image, they do not have to worry about copyright.  Another misconception is that any educational use is unrestricted. This is not true.  For a more substantial discussion of copyright and use of others' work, visit the OCCC Library's Copyright Basics guide.

Permissions: You can ask the original creator for permission to re-use their work.  They may simply say yes.  Other times, you may have to pay to use their image.

Public Domain: Some items are free for use because they are in the public domain.  This usually means copyright protection has expired, or the image was created or owned by a public entity, such as the federal government.  You are still required to cite images that are in the public domain, but you do not have to get permission or pay a fee to use them.

Creative Commons:  Images with a Creative Commons license are free to use without having to get permission, though there may be other conditions, such as limits on the type of use.  Below are the most common icons and their meanings for images with Creative Commons licenses.

   Images that have this icon are licensed through Creative Commons.

Attribution icon   Attribution: You may use the image, but must cite it.

No derivative work icon   Non commercial: You may use the image for non-commercial purposes.

Non-commercial icon   Derivative: You may use the image, but you may not alter it.

 

Disclaimer

These guidelines should not be considered legal advice.