Skip to Main Content

Images: Sources & Solutions: Home


This page provides tools to locate images and use them in accordance with copyright law. An image does not need to have a copyright symbol on or near it to be protected by copyright. ANY image that is subject to copyright is copyrighted by virtue of its being available in a tangible medium, such as a web page, journal article, or textbook.

When an image is subject to copyright, the best practice is to contact the owner of the copyright on the image to arrange for permission. Sometimes this may require contacting an artist or author, other times the publisher or a company that has purchased licensing rights. A fee may be required. Attribution is always a good idea, and may be required. See the "Finding Image Owners" section on the left of this page for tips on how to do that. If you can not find the copyright owner of an image, it is best to avoid using that image.

Some images are free of copyright restrictions, because the original copyright owner has decided to make the images open-access, or because the images are old enough that copyright has expired, or because they were created by a government entity. 

Copyright owners who choose to share their images freely often use a special type of license called a Creative Commons (cc) license. A Creative Commons license describes who may use an image - and for what purpose - without obtaining permission to use the image. Attribution is generally still required.

Finding an image and providing attribution and reference may not be enough to keep you out of trouble. Read on to find out about some additional considerations!

Finally, be sure to take into account equity and justice when choosing an image. Consider using images that are inclusive, respectful and do not promote bias or injustice.

Getting Started - 

Just because you want to use it for educational purposes does not mean you can take it!

Image from Adobe Stock

Finding Image Owners

Before using an image, ensure you have permission to use it from the entity that owns the copyright on the image. Often this is the originator of the image. To identify the copyright owner, consider the following:

  1. Is there a copyright watermark on the image?
  2. Have you checked the metadata on the image file for ownership information?
    1. Instructions for viewing metadata on a PC or Mac
  3. Does the source website offer credits or attribution?
  4. Is there a copyright symbol (©) or statement on the web page?

If none of these routes provide information, try using a "reverse image search" to identify a properly accredited version.


Bookshelves with the text "watermark" on top.

Image with Watermark

Screenshot of an image of students and image metadata

Metadata for an Image (Mac)

JHU Copyright image

A copyright symbol (©), in this case located at the bottom of a web page, indicates the entire page is copyrighted. 

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons LogoA Creative Commons (CC) license allows copyright holders to grant usage rights to the public for their content (e.g. images) for designated purposes, e.g. non-commercial use with modifications. Searching for images released under a CC license can help identify works you may be able to use. If you own the copyright on an image, you may also want to consider sharing it with the world through a CC license. 

To learn more, visit the Creative Commons website

Using Google Images

Video: Image Resources

Need Help?

Resources for Finding Images -

Taking the time to find copyright free images helps you avoid embarrassment and expenses.


Image from Adobe Stock

Free (US Government, Creative Commons, ETC) Resources - - - - NOTE: while most sites are free, some images may have copyright protections - be sure to check the sites & images status before you use the image..

Copyrighted Content covered under an USU License

Some of the collections licensed by the LRC include permissions for USU faculty, staff, and students to use images, videos, and text in defined circumstances. 

Fee-based (Copyrighted) Image Resources

Some resources require you pay either a royalty or a one-time fee to the copyright owner to use their work. These tools provide excellent, high-quality content, but charge for full use of their images. Be sure to carefully read the Terms of Use or Licensing page for complete details.

A note on attribution

Follow the citation and attribution guidelines provided by APA, AMA, JAMA, etc.

When citing Creative Commons images, the best practice is to include the title of the work, author, source, and license type. 

For example: “Structure of the Eye” by OpenStax College, under a CC Attribution 3.0 license.

Note that the name is hyperlinked to the source, the Author is hyperlinked to their homepage, and the license is linked to a full description of the license.

For more information, please visit the Creative Commons' wiki page on attribution.

USU Training

James A. Zimble Learning Resource Center • 4301 Jones Bridge Rd. Bethesda, MD 20814 • Main Number: 301-295-3189 • AMI Helpdesk: 301-295-3358

USU Logo