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Using Images with Confidence

Understand concepts like copyright, fair use, public domain, and Creative Commons licenses to ethically use images in projects

Workshop Outcomes

You will be able to ...

  • locate usage/licensing information on images.
  • find images for use in course projects.
  • interpret usage information, including Creative Commons licenses.



  • legal rights granted to creators

Fair Use

  • the use of copyrighted materials for a limited or transformative purpose (Stanford Libraries)
  • places limits on copyright rights
  • if a use falls under "fair use" the copyright holder does not have to be contacted for permission or compensated for use
  • fair use determinations consult these four factors and involve interpretation


  • ascribing a work to a particular person or organization


  • permits or authorizes use under certain conditions

Public Domain

  • a work with no copyright restrictions
  • copyright restrictions may be expired, waived etc.

Creative Commons Licenses

  • six standard licenses, based on four conditions, used by creators to grant copyright permission for their creative work
  • all six licenses require that creators be credited for their work

Copyright & Licenses

How can I be an ethical user of information including photos, video, and sound?

Before using an image for a specific purpose, look for information that indicates how the image can be used and if there are any restrictions. 

  • Images may be copyrighted. Use is restricted. Permission from the information creator or licensor is required before the image can be used.
  • Images may be assigned a Creative Commons (CC) license. Multiple licenses are available. Information creators select rules for how their images (or other work) can be used. Other licenses may be created that are not CC licenses.
  • Images may be in the Public Domain or assigned a Creative Commons Zero (CCO) license (known as a Public Domain dedication).  Information creators may choose to waive their rights and opt-out of copyright by assigning a CCO license to their work. This information may be used without restriction.

image of copyright symbol, creative commons, and public domainsee Nelli's "The Creative Commons Licenses" post