Correctly Using Online Images in Digital Projects

General Interest, Intellectual Freedom Issues, School Libraries

by Naomi Bates

Google…it’s a well-loved and well-used search site.  While people around the world use Google to locate images, they may not know about the copyright issues accompanying those images.  Here is information you may want to know before you use another image from a Google search:

Just because it’s on Google, doesn’t mean

it can be used for everything

Owners of copyrighted images have the right to post their images, but not necessarily allow them to be used in digital projects, on websites, in blogs or elsewhere.  You have to be sure you’re using an image which is part of the Creative Commons community.

Creative Commons allow users to use their images

as long as they follow the guidelines and licenses.

The most commonly used licensing in Creative Commons is the attribution license, which asks anyone who uses an image to give appropriate credit by providing a link to the image.  The easiest way to filter Creative Commons images from copyrighted images in Google is easy.  Here are the steps to follow after an initial search for an image:

1. click on the “search tools” box at the top of the page

2. click on “usage rights” from the pop up menu

3. select any of the options listed

Google Image Search

Now, you’re on the path of responsibly using images on Google.  It’s always good to have options and there are several websites offering users image searches only within a Creative Commons environment.  Some of these sites include:

Flickr Creative Commons:

Photos For Class:


Now it’s up to us to break the tradition or mindset of responsibly using the internet instead of thinking it’s a free for all.  Two seconds of clicking to find CC images may save you time and trouble of being called out for using a copyrighted image without permission.  Be aware of the Four Rules of Fair Use and create a habit to use trusted sources of Creative Commons licensed images.


Naomi Bates is a teacher librarian at Northwest High School in Justin Texas.  She has worked with students K-12 in both small and large school districts in Texas.  Currently, she is serving as a school library representative-at-large for the Texas Library Association.  She can be reached via Twitter @yabooksandmore or email at


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