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Copyright and Images

Image Use

Using images differs from using text based resources, because you seldom want to use a portion of the image, the way you do when using short excerpts from text. See the Red River College Fair Dealing policy on using copyright content. Often the whole image, which is considered copying the whole work is shared when using an image. This usage requires permission from the copyright holder, or adhering to the terms of the image license.


Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons images (CC images) are a great choice for images to use for teaching and and instruction, as well as by students creating assignments. These images explicitly outline what the terms of use are for the images in simple plain language.  In most cases using these images requires attribution to the creator (Cite the source), but CC images are generally intended for educational and other non-commercial use in depending on the license even commercial use is permitted on some CC images.

It is of value to familiarize yourself with creative commons license structure so that you ensure you select images have terms of use that will meet your needs for how you intend to use the image. See below.

CC BY   Attribution
Others can copy, distribute, display, preform and remix the work, as long as they credit the creator of work as requested.


CC NC   Non Commercial
Others can copy, distribute, display, preform and remix the work for non commercial purposes only.


CC ND   No Derivative Work
Others can copy, distribute, display, and preform only verbatim copies of the work. No remix is allowed.


CC SA   Share Alike
Others can distribute the work only under an identical license.


Google Image Search

The most common way images are found on the internet is by using Google image search. Most of these images are protected by copyright. If you wish to determine if you can use an image  there are several options available to check licenses, terms and conditions of use, or secure permissions for image found through Google. You may use any of the following three options to ensure your image use is copyright compliant.


Filter your Google image search by Usage Rights

1. Using Google search for the image you want to find as you normally would, then select the Images or use Google Image Search directly.

2  Once you see your image search results, click on “Tools” to expand the filter menu.

3. Under “Usage Rights,” you'll find the option to sort images by their license "Creative Commons" or "Commercial and other licenses" both of these options will produce image search results that will work for teaching and instruction but in some cases you may be required to attribute the creator or source of the image (cite the source) . If you are using an image in a situation where you may profit from the use you may wish to strictly filter to "Commercial and other licenses"


Check the terms and conditions

1. Click on the image you wist to use to navigate to the website on which the image is from.

2. Review the site terms and conditions to determine if the website permits the use of their images. If your use is permitted you may use the image.


Ask for permission

1. Click on the image you wist to use to navigate to the website which the image is from.

2. Click on the "Contact Us" or "Contact Information" on the website.

3. Contact the individuals, corporation or business responsible for the site and request permission to use the image.

4. Keep all written permission documents for your records.


Royalty Free Images

Royalty Free is a type of license that once obtained the use that image is perpetual without having to renew the license. You can buy Royalty free licenses for images from stock image sites, or you can find images that are already licensed as Royalty Free and are open to use without restrictions.If you purchase a license for an image be sure to keep a copy of the terms for your records.


Public Domain / Copyright Free Images

The term “public domain” refers to materials (not specifically images but inclusive of images) that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. Those rights may have expired, been forfeited, expressly waived. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. In Canada a image will fall automatically into the public domain 50 years after the death of the image creator at the point copyright expires.


Image Resources

Now that you have reviewed how you can use images while respecting copyright and some of the terms and licenses that are common in using images, here is a small list of image databases and collections to get you started:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search

Wikimedia Commons

Royalty Free




Public Domain

The British Library Flickr

The Public Domain Review