Images and Copyright

By Carlos ZGZ [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
We’ve all done it, we’ve all used Google to find images and then stuck those pictures into presentations, lab reports and posters. If it’s on Google I can just use it, right? Wrong! What most of us don’t realize is that most of the pictures we find on Google are protected by Copyright. We could have long discussions about things like “fair use” and citing sources but the bottom line is that there is only one way to make sure you are not violating any Copyright laws when using images from the internet: Use Creative Commons images and attribute them correctly. Alternatively you can always use your own images.

That sounds like a lot of work!

It might sound like a lot of work but it doesn’t have to be. There are some great resources out there to help you find and correctly attributing images you find online. Have a look at the different options, give them a try and see which one works for you.

1. Photos For Class

Photos For Class is definitely the easiest option for finding Creative Commons images and attributing them correctly. Just enter a search term, click “Find Photos” and you will be presented with Creative Commons images from different sites that match your search term. 1555348 When you download one of the images the correct attribution is automatically added in a black bar at the bottom of the image, it does all the work for you! The attribution is part of the image so you are not able to select the text if you want to copy it.

+ Good range of search results
+ Attribution is embedded in image
+ Search results are filtered for school
– Attribution is not editable

2. Wikimedia

I love Wikipedia, it’s a great source for all kinds of information. Even if you don’t want students using Wikipedia for research you should encourage them to use it to find images because all images you see on Wikipedia are licensed as Creative Commons. All these images are hosted on Wikimedia and Wikimedia also helps with citing the images correctly.

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 13.40.45
Screenshot of Wikimedia page. Image: CC BY 2.0,

Just go to Wikimedia Commons, enter your search term in the top right box, hit enter and you will get all the images that are available on Wikimedia. Clicking an image will open an image browser and give you the option to download, when you download Wikimedia will tell you if you need to attribute the author. If you need an attribution for your image just click “Show me how” and you will be presented with the correct attribution for your image. You can even get the attribution in HTML if you want to use it on a web page.

+ Attribution is editable
+ Attribution in text or HTML
– Limited search results

3. Compfight

Compfight searches a wide range of sites for Creative Commons images, search results include mostly images that are not copyrighted but also include “premium” images. These premium images are usually shown at the top of the screen and are not free to download. Attribution is only given in HTML format but can be converted to regular text with a bit of work.

+ Wide range of search results
+ Search can be filtered for school
– Citation only in HTML format

4. Your own images

Even when you use your own images you should be citing them so people know where they are coming from. Here is an acceptable format for citing your own images:

Last Name, First Name. “Photograph Title/Description.” Year Created. Digital File Type

Here’s an example:

Langlands, Rob. “Leopard in Kruger.” 2015. jpeg file.

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