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Images: Images and Copyright

A guide to finding and using various kinds of images on the internet.

Reuse Notice

The information on this page is reused with permission from Butler University Libraries' Using Images & Media guide, under a CC-BY license. 

Using Images and Media

Using Images & Media

Everything on the Internet is not true. Likewise, everything on the Internet is not free for you to use.

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 rights 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!

Finding Images with Reuse Rights

Google Images search with arrow pointing to Search Tools button

  • 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. 


  • 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.

Wikimedia Commons image file page

  • 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

Creative Commons Licensing

Public Domain

Public Domain: Works that you can use in any way you want to. Most works enter the public domain once intellectual property laws expire, but some enter because creators wish for their work to be available without copyright law restrictions.

Creating Your Own Images

You also have the option to create your own images and graphics. You own the copyright to your own creations, and may reuse them as you see fit. 



Fair Use Resources for Images

Fair Use guidelines permit faculty to use images, graphics, and other copyrighted material for their course lectures. Material must not be distributed outside of your class or made available to a wider audience. 

  • AccessMedicine - Click on "Multimedia" 
  • ClinicalKey - Limit search to "Multimedia"
  • pixabay - Includes stock photos and videos
  • Unsplash - Includes photos by category
  • MedPix - Open access database of medical images from the National Library of Medicine
  • pexels - Includes stock photos and videos
  • pxfuel - Includes stock photos
  • CDC Public Health Image Library - Image library from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Open-i - National Library of Medicine image library; copyright license type linked below image on the detailed view page.

Diverse & Inclusive Image Resources found on University on Illinois Library's Social Media Accessibility & Inclusivity LibGuide.