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Understanding Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides a framework to allow the reuse of creative work. Their widely recognized licenses allow creators to make their work easily reusable, with different levels of restrictions of their choice (for example, one may want to allow their work to be used for non-commercial purposes only).
You can use images that have a Creative Commons license, but it is important to understand the types of Creative Commons license that is applied to an image, and what restrictions, if any, there may be.
For a list of the different types of CC licenses and what you can and cannot do, see the Licenses and Examples page.
If you're considering applying a CC license to your own work, use the CC License Chooser tool.
Citing images: Example
Science, Industry and Business Library: General Collection , The New York Public Library. "Model X-1 - Runabout." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1903 - 1916. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-0051-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Science, Industry and Business Library: General Collection , The New York Public Library. (1903 - 1916). Model X-1 - Runabout. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-0051-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Chicago Turabian Format
Science, Industry and Business Library: General Collection , The New York Public Library. "Model X-1 - Runabout." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 9, 2019. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47de-0051-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Proper use of images
There are three situations for using images correctly in your project:
- Use an image that has a Creative Commons license (and adhere to the rules of the specific license applied).
- Use an image that is in the public domain. In general, you'll find these on the websites of credible sources (like public libraries and archives), with a clear statement indicating that the image is in the public domain.
- Obtain a license to use an image. This often involves paying a fee.
If an image you find has no apparent license or usage terms associated with it (for example, images on the New York Times website), you must assume it is under copyright and CANNOT BE USED WITHOUT PERMISSION of the copyright holder.
Sources for Creative Commons Images
Creative Commons Search
Search for images to use or modify for your projects. Each image comes with copy-and-paste HTML code to easily add proper attribution and a license to your image.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
The New York Public Library has provided information about images in its collection that are in the public domain, and thus free to use. They also provide formatted citations for each image. When you run your search, be sure to click on the "Search only public domain materials" checkbox.
Pexels offers thousands of public domain images that are free to use without attribution, provided by generous professional photographers (however, it is best to attribute the photographer when possible!). See more information about the Pexel license
Unsplash is another searchable database of free-to-use images from professional photographers. While not necessary to credit the source for many of these images, it is best practice to do so, and a handy HTML code and copy-and-paste text is provided. See more information about the Unsplash license
Compfight allows you to search Flickr for usable images. Limit your search to Creative Commons with the left-hand filter menu. Most have some usage restrictions but can be used for non-commercial purposes. A handy HTML embed code is provided for captioning.
Provides free-to-use Creative Commons licensed images in a searchable database. Here you can also search for Getty, iStock, Shutterstock and other high quality stock images and easily pay for licenses if you choose to use them.
You can run an image search in Google and then limit the search to those images marked as reusable. Run your search, click on Tools and then choose Labeled for Reuse, as shown below.
Using Google Image to find free-to-use images
How to cite images
Regardless of whether or not credit is required, it is best practice to credit or cite an image you use. You can do this by at least adding a caption to your image and ideally, also providing a citation in a list of references at the end of your work.
See the box to the left for examples of how to cite an image in a number of citation styles.
Conveniently, several of the websites listed above provide an HTML code or copy-and-paste text that you can embed under your image to properly credit it and provide the reader with a link to the original image. It's also best practice to add a link to the license, as shown below.
For more information about citing images and attribution, see the following resources:
Using Getty Images
Getty Images is a visual media company supplying millions of stock images, illustrations, photographs and videos. If your work is non-commercial, as it is in this class, you can use Getty Images free of charge with their Embed feature in a few simple steps:
- Go to Getty Images and enter search terms in the search box.
- Filter the search to include embeddable images by clicking on the checkbox next to 'Embeddable Images' at the bottom of the left-hand menu.
- Click on an image and then click on the '</> Embed' button under the image.
- Copy and paste the Embed code into your webpage's source code. The image should appear as below, with the Getty Images information at the bottom of the image.
Embed from Getty Images