6. Find and Use Openly-Licensed Images: A Step-by-Step Guide | Guide

Anita R. Walz

Images, figures, and other graphic elements are among the most frequently used Creative Commons’ licensed materials incorporated into others’ original works. This step-by-step guide walks you through how to not only find openly-licensed graphic elements, but how to create or find an attribution statement which is contractually required when reusing Creative Commons’ licensed works.

 

Learning Objectives

Learners should be able to:

  • Use terms and synonyms to find relevant CC-licensed images or graphics.
  • Download and correctly attribute Creative Commons-licensed images.
  • If working with pictures that include people, be able to locate pictures of more diverse people, and describe model rights or the “right to publicity”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment

  1. List up to three animals, vegetables, or common household items.
  2. Search for pictures of one or two of the items using the sources below. Document your search and what you found in 1 page.
  3. Provide an attribution for at least one image from each search environment.
  4. If the images you found include people in them, see if you can find pictures you can use which are more representative of the diversity of your audience, and read about model rights or the “right of publicity.” Describe are the conditions under which you could use a photo of a recognizable or famous person?
  5. (optional) Compare and contrast coverage available from the various search tools.

Find and Use Openly-Licensed Images: A Step-by-Step Guide

Searchers most frequently ask how and where to find openly-licensed graphics or photos. This three step guide aids those seeking openly licensed images in:

STEP 1: Creating a list of search terms

STEP 2: Using specific search tools to find relevant openly-licensed images

STEP 3: Determining if you can use what you find — and how to attribute it

  • Do you need more help?

STEP 1: What are you Looking for?

List key search terms and synonyms for each concept here

  • Example1: book* OR manuscript OR textbook OR “reading material”
  • Example2: pachyderm OR pachydermata OR elephant*

STEP 2: Using Specific Tools

2.1 openverse (formerly Creative Commons Search)

  • Go to: https://wordpress.org/openverse
  • Enter your selected search terms. Optional, use the drop down menu to limit to images or audio. Press “Search.” In this example, we will search using the word “dolphin.”
Openverse search engine containing a dropdown menu with options like all content, images, or audio.
Figure 1

 

 

 

  • Here are the search results. Use the “Filters” in the upper right hand corner to filter your search results by use, license, image type, file type, aspect ratio, image size or source, if you wish.
A search page with many dolphin images. Includes "filters" for advanced sorting.
Figure 2
  • Click on the image you want to use, copy the attribution information (as seen below) and add both to your document.
Dolphin image with data below that includes the author of the image, terms of use, and a place to copy the recommended attribution statement
Figure 3
  • Click on “Get this image” to double check the license and author information, and download the image and add it (and the attribution statement) to your document.

NOTE: In this case, we discover that the name of the author in Flickr, likely the source of the image in openverse, is different. The author may have uploaded this under two different names. Or, someone else may be falsely claiming credit. Best practice is to use and attribute the oldest instance of the image and attribution. In this case, we cannot tell what the upload date is in openverse. Checking this in a reverse image search tool like Tineye or Google Reverse Image Search can help us to determine which version of the image is oldest and/or largest or highest resolution, and thus which attribution is likely to be correct. As the image in Flickr was uploaded in 2006, it is older than any of the other options, so we will credit the photographer, Ste Elmore, in the attribution.

In this case, this image is attributed as: (c) Ste Elmore. 2006. Dolphin Encounter CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9Ghta

Image of a dolphin on Flickr with data below the image including the author of the image, title of the image, when it was posted, and a place to click to learn more on which rights are reserved/what license the image has.
Figure 4

Note: Flickr.com is the host website for this image. The download interface will look different depending on where the image is hosted.

 

2.2 Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons website with a search bar in the upper right hand corner
Figure 5
  • We are again searching for “dolphin.” From the search results on your screen, I have clicked on an image to look at.
Wikimedia Commons results after searching "dolphin". Hundreds of pictures are surfaced.
Figure 6

 

 

 

 

 

  • The image appears on the right hand side of the screen as seen in the figure below. Within your search, click on the button “More Details” to see more details regarding the image you selected.
Wikimedia Commons website showing search results for dolphin. Search results appear on the left. When you select one, it appears on the right. There's a clickable icon beneath the image to learn more about its permissions.
Figure 7
  • Review the image (especially file size/resolution). Write your attribution statement (Title, Author, Source/URL, and License) and add the attribution and the downloaded image to your document.

In this case, the attribution would be (c) Szyizm. 2012 تركيب_الدلفين. [dolphin] Derived from Dolphin anatomy.svg by WikipedianProlific CC BY SA 3.0.

Wikimedia Commons website page on a single dolphin image. Page includes the URL at the top, title of the image just below that, autho of the image a little further down, when the image was posted, and a gray box contains what license the author has selected for the image.
Figure 8

 

2.3 Google Advanced Image Search

Dropdown box with options: all, creative commons licenses, commercial & other licenses
Figure 9
  • Scroll up and enter your search term(s) and press enter
  • Click on “Tools” and verify that the Usage Rights setting does indeed reflect “Creative Commons licenses.”
Screenshot of Google images after searching "dolphin". there is a dropdown box right beneath the search bar as a way to filter.
Figure 10
Google search results for "dolphin" filtered by creative commons licenses
Figure 11

 

  • Click on an image you like. This will cause a larger version of the image you selected to appear on the right hand side of the screen. Click on the larger image displayed on the right.
When clicking an image from google image's search engine, the image appears to the right. There's a button under the image that says "visit"
Figure 12

STEP 3: Can I use This?

This section covers three required and one optional question:

  1. Does it have a Creative Commons license?
  2. Do you understand the basics of the CC license you are using?
  3. Are you able to follow the terms of the license?
  4. (unusual cases) Are you mixing different kinds of licenses?

3.1 Does it have a Creative Commons license?

YES    /     NO

Information from Creative Commons about Creative Commons licenses

There are six Creative Commons licenses and two Public Domain markers.

Licenses are listed from most freedom to least freedom. Public domain, CC BY, CC BY SA, CC BY NC, CC BY NC SA, CC BY ND, CC BY NC ND. All are OER except for the ones that contain ND (the last two).
Figure 13

They are displayed many different ways. Here are a few examples.

Creative commons licenses can be labelled in many different ways including words and icons.
Figure 14

 

 

 

 

3.2 Do you understand the allowances and requirements of the license you are using?  (e.g. what you can, must, and cannot do?)

Yes / No / Maybe

Links to the official Creative Commons license terms

License Users may Users must Users must not
CC BY
(or CC Attribution)
Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work. Attribute or credit the author as requested. Indicate any changes.
CC BY-SA
(CC BY ShareAlike)
Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work. Attribute or credit the author as requested. Apply the same CC license used by the author to the derivative work. Indicate any changes.
CC BY NC
(CC BY Non-Commercial)
Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work. Attribute or credit the author as requested. Indicate any changes. Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work for commercial purposes.
CC BY-NC-SA
(CC BY Non-Commercial Share Alike)
Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work for non-commercial purposes. Attribute or credit the author as requested. Apply the same CC license used by the author to the derivative work. Indicate any changes. Copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix the work for commercial purposes.

See this one-page guide on Unpacking CC licenses.

3.3 You must follow the terms of the license. Will you?

Yes / No

Write your attribution statement here AND copy it into your document

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Certain licenses have restrictions
    • ND licenses do not allow you to modify and re-share the item.
    • SA licensed items require that you release your version under the same license
    • NC licenses prohibit primarily commercial uses

3.4 Are you incorporating “insets” or small portions that have a different license than the overall work?

Think of this as adding something to a fruit salad (3.4) rather than a smoothie (3.5). An “inset” makes up only a small portion of the overall work (e.g., it is a discrete object such as a photograph which generally maintains its integrity.)

Yes / No

Table showing what CC works can be incorporated into another CC work. Generally, public domain, cc by, and cc by sa can be included in any work. If the license on the overall work is CC BY, CC BY SA, CC BY ND, or in copyright, then you cannot include CC BY NC, CC BY NC SA, CC BY NC ND, or in-copyright works.
Figure 15
  • Non-commercial materials should ONLY be incorporated when the larger resource has a Non-commercial license.
  • All third party materials should be clearly marked (i.e. Used under Fair Use. In the Public Domain, etc.) See below for required CC-attribution.
  • Proper attribution is required for third-party works used under a Creative Commons license. You must indicate if you made changes. For more information see Best Practices for Attribution.

*Public Domain = free from copyright. According to best scholarly practices, Public Domain materials should still be cited/referenced. Public domain is not the same as “free online.”

  • Other works such as those with an almost-Public Domain license such as those from Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay (licenses as of the publication date of this work) etc. may be used like Public Domain materials.

**Unless precluded by an access-related license or agreement (such as library subscription to the work), copyright and open licenses do not preclude Fair Use. Works (including in-copyright works) marked “No” may be used when an informed Fair Use analysis is completed and is affirmative. All risks are assumed by the user. Users are advised to retains records of fair use assertions. See pages 11-14 of the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use for Open Educational Resources.

3.5 (unusual cases) Are you mixing major building blocks that have different licenses?

Yes / No

Think of this as a smoothie (3.5) rather than a fruit salad (3.4).

Things not to do:

  1. Do not use “NC (non commercial)” material within a work whose overall license allows commercial use (CC BY, CC BY SA, CC BY ND)
  2. Do not combine items with conflicting “SA” licenses (e.g. avoid having half of your work from a source licensed CC BY SA and the other half licensed CC BY NC SA as it is impossible to honor the terms of both licenses.)
  3. Do not make any changes to items with “ND” licenses.

Read about mixed license compatibility here.

Table showing what CC works can be incorporated into another CC work. Generally, public domain, cc by, and cc by sa can be included in any work. If the license on the overall work is CC BY, CC BY SA, CC BY ND, or in copyright, then you cannot include CC BY NC, CC BY NC SA, CC BY NC ND, or in-copyright works.
Figure 16

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Making Open Educational Resources with and for PreK12 Copyright © 2023 by Anita R. Walz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.