Tag Archives: Creative Commons

Find free and legal images with Creative Commons

Image by Darwin Bell The Internet is home to millions of images. Scattered throughout billions of web pages. Give a class of students the task of creating a presentation, document, web site or whatever and they will often reach for their browser and trusty Google image search to locate stuff to illustrate their work.

Now obviously this method will find loads of (usually) relevant images, but the problem is that Google’s image search (and others such as Yahoo and Live search) indiscriminately finds images on any web site in its index. This means that many of the images will be subject to copyright restrictions and using them without permission, even for school work, may be illegal.

logo_cc_trademark A better option for finding images (and other media) that can be used freely and legally is to stick to stuff that has been released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. If a picture, video or piece of music has a Creative Commons license, it means that the creator has given permission for it to be used by others for non-commercial use and sometimes more freely.

There are four main things to look out for that explain the specific requirements for the use of an image. Each has a handy icon that helps you to spot which restrictions apply at a glance.


Attribution (by): Almost all images require you to credit the person who created it. A name next to the picture is enough.


No Derivatives: This means that you can use the image as it is, but not change it in any way (except changing the size).

cc_icon_noncomm Non commercial: The image may be used for any personal, educational or non-commercial use, but not for commercial purposes. This isn’t usually a problem in schools.


Share alike: You may alter and use the image in any way you like, but your work must be released (shared) under the same license.

There are several places that you can search for and find these images. Even the big search engines have got in on the act and now allow you to search for Creative Commons licensed work.

Creative Commons search

The website of the organisation which runs the licenses has its own search function that will allow you to search for all types of CC licensed material via Google, Yahoo and other more media specific sites. This is one of the best places to start for comprehensive searches, but may be a bit complex if your students are just looking for images.

SpinXpress – Get Media

For media searches (images, music and video) Get Media is a good option. It gathers several databases of media and allows you to specify the license restrictions that you want to restrict your search to as well as searching for one or all types of media.

Flickr – Creative Commons

If it’s images you’re after, Flickr may be the best place to look. The photo sharing website has at the time of writing over 85 million images licensed with one of the CC licenses! You and your students should be able to find something you can use. Flickr separates its images into the six different licenses and allows you to browse or search within each.

FlickrCC and FlickrStorm

FlickrCC and FlickrStorm are two other ways of searching Flickr for CC images. Both work well and allow you to select the license type you want to restrict your search to. These services can be quicker ways to compare images to find the right one for you.

You can find out more about Creative Commons, the licenses and how they apply to all sorts of content including written work at the Creative Commons UK website or the international website.