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Copyright & Images

While images, including graphical representations such as charts, tables, graphs and/or infographics, are be easy to find and copy from the internet, this does not mean that they are free from copyright protection.   The Copyright Act has several user's rights that allow the use of images for educational purposes - See the Fair Dealing page and the Educational exceptions page for more information.

  • NOTE: if there are commercially available alternatives, the Six Factors test would deem your use to be "less fair" than if no such alternatives exist.
  • Images from the web:  Just because it is technically simple to copy-paste an image from the net this does not necessarily mean that it's permissible to copy and share that image. 
    • See the Images from Websites box below for more information.

Images from websites

Before using any image from a website first check the website's "Terms of Use" or "Legal Notices" section to see if it permits your intended use, including whether educational use is permitted or explicitly prohibited. Many websites will allow non-commercial / educational use of their materials under certain conditions.  Before using a site's content check to see what you are permitted to do with it and make sure to satisfy any conditions it requires.
  • NOTE: in the event there is a conflict between a site's Terms and what is permitted under the Copyright Act - the Terms prevail.
  • Unlike the US, the Canadian and Provincial governments claim crown copyright over their publications and web content.  Always check the relevant web terms to make sure that non-commercial/educational uses are permitted.
  • Many people think that simply providing a citation to an image satisfies copyright requirements.  This is not necessarily the case, especially when it comes to website content.
    • If you are in any doubt about whether a website permits your intended use of its content, provide a link to the site instead or use an alternate image that has clear permissions information attached to it, e.g., from an openly licenced repository.  See Find Openly Licenced Images below for more information.
  •  It's crucial to avoid being a party to copyright infringements, so you must also ensure that the content is not itself in violation of copyright.
    • Track back any images you find via a browser's image search to the source website to check the site's terms & conditions.   Also look out for any obvious signs that the site is not the copyright holder for the image, e.g., stills from a BBC documentary on a non-BBC website.
  • The Copyright Act specifies that web content that is used in compliance with the Act, for educational or training purposes, must include a citation to the source. Copyright Act, Section 30.04(2).

Find Openly Licensed Images

The following is a list of public domain and openly licensed image repositories. The information provided may be subject to change without notice by the website owners.  Always check the relevant licence information prior to using images from the web.
Website Description License Information

Pixabay has over 1.8 million royalty free, high quality images, including photos, illustrations and vector graphics.  Images are free to use and modify, even for commercial purposes via the identical CC0 licence.

NOTE: Pixabay does not permit users to sell unaltered copies of its images; also limits how its images of recognizable people's faces or brands may be used.

The Pixabay licence allows for almost any use of its images for free, including for commercial or non-commercial purposes; modifications permitted.  Attribution is not required, though it is appreciated.

Licence information



Unsplash has a photograph collection of more than 500,000 images. All images are free to use, even for commercial purposes.

NOTE: Unsplash does have some limits to how its images of recognizable people's faces, trademarks or brands may be used.  For details see the FAQ.

The Unsplash licence allows for almost any use of its images for free, including for commercial or non-commercial purposes; modifications permitted.  Attribution is not required, though it is appreciated.

Licence information

For details of how images of recognizable faces, trademarks or brands are limited see the FAQ.

Wikimedia Commons

A collection of public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). For permissions info, see the Simple media reuse guide.

NOTE: these are not available via a blanket Creative Commons licence - each image will have clearly detailed information about the specific CC licence terms by which it has been made available.

All versions of CC licenses are represented. Check individual images for license information. 

For more details on permitted uses see about Creative Commons Licenses.

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr's own Creative Commons search - searching within its own collections only.  Results are based on the licence conditions offered by the Flickr user who uploaded the content. 

NOTE: This search service does not search across licence terms - each CC licence type has a clearly labelled, separate search engine - click the "See More" link under each listed CC licence to begin searching that pool of images.

All versions of CC licenses are represented. Check individual images for license information. 

For more details on permitted uses see about Creative Commons Licenses.

Encyclopedia of Life

Hosted by the National Museum of Natural History from the Smithsonian, this project seeks to provide "global access to knowledge about life on Earth."  Encyclopedia entries include image(s) shared under different licenses - though most are published under Creative Commons licenses

Check individual images for license information by clicking them and then scrolling down the information page to the "rights" section.
National Gallery of Art Images

Over 51,000 open access digital images from the US National Gallery of Art, with many famous works included. NGA's Open Access Policy encourages wide use and provides details on permissions.

Open access, free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. 

Licence information.


"A collection of icons, the Noun Project strives to build a global visual language that everyone can understand."

Icons have public domain or creative commons licences; however the site's Terms & Conditions require that all users who do not have a paid account must provide an attribution for each image, each time it is used, in addition to adhering to any other licence conditions that may apply.

Icons can be used for free with mandatory attribution. Paid account holders have access to the identical collections, but are not required to provide attributions, may download icons in colour and have access to all the service's apps.

Creating an account with NounProject is required for both paid and unpaid users.

Terms of use

US Fish and Wildlife Services National Digital Library

Most of the images in this searchable database are in the public domain; those that are not specify permitted uses and attribution.

Check individual images for licence information. 
Google Images

Under 'Advanced Search' you can filter by 'Usage Rights' to only show search results published under an open licence. For example, "free to use share or modify"

NOTE: This search feature identifies images based on how the images are labelled - but does not verify that the images were uploaded by the rights' holder, nor that they appear on a given website with the rights' holder(s) knowledge or permission. The onus is on the user to make these verifications prior to using another person's work.

Search by 'usage rights'    
Creative Commons Search

From the Creative Commons site: a very useful search engine "that allows openly licensed and public domain works (from the Internet) to be discovered and used by everyone."  Search filters allow you to filter by specific CC licence; the Use filter allows you to see results that permit commercial use and/or "modifications permitted."

NOTE: this search service provides results from outside of the Wikimedia Commons. The onus is on the user to verify licence conditions and that the image has been made available with the rights' holder's permission/knowledge.

All versions of CC licences are represented. Check individual images for licence information 

For more details on permitted uses see about Creative Commons Licences.