Skip to Main Content

Finding Images: Home

Finding and Using Images

Finding Images



This guide will show you how to find images on the web and how to use them ethically and responsibly in your assignments, papers, and projects. Most images are subject to copyright and you need permission to use them. However, images that are in the public domain and those covered by a Creative Commons license may be used without permission. When using images, be careful not to violate copyright as that may get you into trouble.

Use the following guidelines when attempting to use images from the web:

  • Try to use images in the public domain or those under a creative commons (CC) license.
  • If you are doubtful whether an image is free from copyright, always assume it is.
  • Try to find out who the author/owner of the image is and get permission to use the image.
  • Give credit to the author/owner of the image by citing it correctly.

An image may be in the public domain because it's copyright has expired or because it was never under copyright. Check with the U.S. Copyright Office about the duration of copyright if you are unsure if an image is in the public domain.

Some works are licensed through the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which allows the sharing and use of a work which might have otherwise been copyrighted. There are different types of creative commons licenses; some allow you to use a work freely without any attribution and some may stipulate certain terms and conditions for their use. Always read the terms of use prior to using an image.

Many sites contain royalty-free images. Royalty free images are not always free; you do not require to pay royalties to the owner of the image every time you use it; however, you may be required to pay an initial fee for rights to use the image after which you may use it any number of times.

Although the U.S. Copyright Act provides for fair use of an image without obtaining permission from the owner, fair use is rather ambiguous and, in many cases, a judgment call, so always exercise caution.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid using an image if you are unsure whether it can be used without permission.

Buley Research Librarians

Profile Photo
Research Librarian

You may also contact individual librarians via the One-on-one Instruction Request form.

Research & Information Desk
1st Floor, Buley Library
txt: (203) 490-0756