Copyright for teaching at VU: Creative Commons

Freely available or not copyright restricted sources

Following is a list of websites where copyright free and Creative Commons content may be sourced. This list is not exhaustive.

Biodiversity Heritage Library (via Flickr)

CC Image Search

CC Search [legacy CC search]

Centro de Fotografia de Montevideo

compfight  (a Flickr search tool)

CSIRO Science Image

everystockphoto (search engine for free photos; licence specific)

GNU Art Gallery

iconfinder (free and premium icons)

Images from the History of Medicine (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

NASA Image Galleries

Noun Project (icons and photos, some high-res downloads cost)


Open I (Open Access Biomedical Image Search Engine)

Paris Musees


photopin (via Creative Commons)

Picryl (Public Domain media search engine)


Public Domain Pictures


Smithsonian Open Access

Snappygoat (free stock photos)


Wellcome images (images of medicine, science, society, culture)

Wikimedia Commons

Be sure to check the terms and conditions of the site, and in some cases the individual images, for usage rights. Be wary of material found under a CC licence that you suspect may be copyright infringing.

Creative Commons

In this section you will find information about the suite of Creative Commons licences and how you can use them when selecting items, such as images, for your teaching units.

According to their website, Creative Commons is a global network promoting the legal sharing of knowledge and creativity.  "Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use copyright licenses to make a simple and standardized way to give the public permission to share and use [...] creative work – on conditions of [the creators'] choice".

Key Points

The Creative Commons licences are a standardised way for you to use and share works created by others without infringing copyright.

Creative Commons allows you to use works, within the parameters of the licences, without seeking permission.  There are a number of different licences which range from very open to more restrictive terms and conditions.

The suite of licences include core conditions which are:

  • BY = Attribution  Creative Commons Attribution Icon - figure of person in a circle
  • NC = Non Commercial Creative Commons Non Commercial Icon - figure of a dollar sign, slashed through, in a circle
  • ND = No Derivative Creative Commons icon for No Derivative - equals symbol in a circle
  • SA = Share Alike Creative Commons ice for Share Alike - anti-clockwise circular arrow in a circle

These core conditions are combined to create the terms of the licences, as follows:

Infrographic showing the spectrum of Creative Commons licences from most open (CC0) to least open (CC BY NC ND) followed by copyright.

[“Creative Commons License Spectrum” by Shaddim (CC BY). Image Source: Creative Commons - Understanding Free Cultural Works]

For further information about these licences and their uses see the page Creative Commons Licences.

Creative Commons on Google Images and Flickr

It is possible to apply a Creative Commons filter when searching for images on Google Images and in Flickr.

Google Images:

Commence your search in Google Images, then click 'Tools', 'Usage Rights', and then select "Creative Commons licenses" to filter to Creative Commons content.

Screenshot of the Google Images interface showing the Tools button, Usage Rights menu and Creative Commons licenses option that allows filtering to CC content

Always 'visit' the image source to confirm the licence and attribution details of the image before using.


Commence your search in Flickr, look for 'Any licence' on the left-hand side of the screen, and select the appropriate licence, for example "All creative commons"

Always click on the image to 'view' it, in order to confirm licence and attribution details before using.