Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Using Images: Copyright

Copyright Status

Images, like other original works, are protected by copyright. This protection means that the creator of the image has the exclusive right to reuse (copy, distribute, display, etc.) the work. The creator may choose to allow others to reuse the image, however. When using an image you will need to determine its copyright status.

  • Copyrighted
    • If an image is copyrighted, permission is required to use it. If the use is for an educational purpose, however, and the image will not be shown publicly, it may be considered fair use. Fair use provides an exception for copyrighted works to be used without permission. The copyright should be acknowledged with an attribution.
  • Creative Commons License
    • An image with a Creative Commons (CC) license can be reused without permission, as long as attribution is given to the creator. There are various types of CC licenses, each giving a different level of permission.
  • Public Domain
    • An image in the public domain can be reused without permission, but attribution should be given to the creator.
  • No copyright indicated
    • If no copyright is indicated for an image, it should be treated as if copyrighted.
  • Clip Art
    • Images from commercial programs (such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint) can be reused without permission or attribution.
    • Clip art found on websites may be copyrighted or may be labelled for reuse. Refer to the terms of the website to see if attribution is required.


Regardless of the copyright status of an image, attribution, or credit, should still be given to the original creator (with the exception of commercial clip art). A copyright attribution includes:

  • the title, author, date, and source for the image
  • the image's copyright status (copyright year and holder, a statement that the image is licensed under Creative Commons, or a statement that the work is in the public domain)
  • a permission statement if permission to use the image was sought and obtained

Copyright attribution is part of citation. Citing images is discussed in more detail on the next page.

Additional Information