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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

Four License Conditions

Creative Commons licenses provide a standardized way for creators to grant specific permission for their use of their work.

  • A combination of four elements or conditions result in six licenses.
  • Each Creative Commons (CC) license includes one to three of the following four elements.
  • Example from an image at OpenVerse.

Attribution (BY)

  • a work may be used if the author/licensor is credited
  • ALL six licenses require Attribution (BY)

Non-Commercial (NC)

  • a work may only be used for non-commercial purposes

No Derivative Works (ND)

  • a work may not be changed in anyway
  • NEVER featured with Share-Alike (SA) element

Share-Alike (SA)

  • a derivative work (any changed work) must receive the same license that was applied to the original work
  • only applies to derivative works
  • NEVER featured with the No Derivative Works (ND) element

Each license element has an associated graphic.

graphic - Creative Commons elements

Six Available Licenses

These are the six available Creative Commons licenses which are combinations of the four elements above. See "About CC Licenses".

CC BY License    Attribution CC-BY

CC BY SA license   Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA

CC BY ND license     Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND

CC BY NC License     Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC

CC BY NC SA License     Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

BY NC ND License     Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

graphics from Creative Commons

CC & Public Domain

CC0 (No Rights Reserved) is a Public Domain Dedication offered by the Creative Commons for creators who opt out of copyright protection (though this opt-out may not apply to every jurisdiction).

CCO public domain creative commons


Public Domain Mark (No Known Copyright) allows institutions to communicate when a work is no longer under copyright and therefore can be freely used by others.

public domain mark

graphics from Creative Commons

Creative Commons Chart (George Mason University)

License Spectrum

spectrum of most open to least open licenses

graphic from Creative Commons