Need an image of something for something like a newsletter, blog or flier, but don’t have a lot to spend? Try looking for images covered under the Creative Commons License. The Creative Commons license also covers some music and some written material like books and blogs.

The CCL allows you to use otherwise copyrighted works for free under certain conditions. The license in non-revocable, so someone can’t change their mind about an image and sue you later for using it.

There are different restrictions applied to material covered by this license and those restrictions are sometimes denoted by the icons below.



“Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.” – basically you have to give credit where credit is due if you use this material. You can’t pass it off as your own. You need to add photo courtesy of or a footnote attributing the text.



Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. – That means if you were to incorporate an image or a piece of music into your own work, you can’t then copyright that for yourself.



Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes. – You can use this in your school report or for your Christmas card or personal site, but if it’s for advertisement, there’s no permission granted. That would include putting an image on a flier for a paid concert or using music for a radio commercial.

No Derivative Works


Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it. – This mean no incorporating these works into anything else or editing them. They must be displayed in their original form.

You can mix and match these restrictions. An item with attribution only could be used in other works and for advertising. But an item with attribution and non-commercial cannot.

How do you find things licensed under Creative Commons?  For written works, you’ll sometimes see that displayed where you find the copyright information.  You can also go to the Creative Commons site and use their search to find music, video and images.


I could click on the Open Clip Art Library to search for clip art about picnics.


When you click on the image, you’ll see info about he license and the options to download it in various styles and formats.  Since searching through CC takes you to different sites that host Creative Commons licensed material, the interface is going to be a little different on each site.

You could also just Google Creative Commons License along with the type of material you’re looking for. Bing also has an excellent image search.

Word even lets you search for CC images when you insert an image into a document.

~ Cynthia