How-to: find visual & audio sources for use in your work
Many websites host images, sound files and other types of media that you may want to use in your own work. These may be:
Under full copyright protection
Under full copyright protection and their use further restricted by license
Under full copyright protection but where the creator has allowed certain uses by attaching a license agreement to the item, such as a Creative Commons License
Available in the public domain, and no longer protected by copyright.
Copyright and Derivative Works
As of November 7, 2012, copyright legislation allows the creation of derivative works (mash-ups) using copyright restricted material as long as the following conditions are met:
- Non-commercial use
- Attribution (the source must be cited)
- The original work used to make the derivative is a legally obtained copy (not a pirate)
- The derivative work does not adversely affect the commercial value of the original work
However, if a source has a license agreement attached to it, the license must be respected. In these cases, a careful reading of the license agreement is necessary to determine if the source may be used to create a derivative work.
Regardless of the source of the media, always click through and check the specific license or use conditions associated with it. In addition, always credit the source of the media in your work. Below are some sites which may be useful in locating media:
Creative Commons Search
Acts as a directory and search tool to major sites with Creative Commons-licensed media. Searching specific sites directly (ex: Fotopedia, Jamendo) may improve results. Not all media within these sites allow re-use, so be sure to check the license.
Films under the public domain and / or Creative Commons. In some cases, not all elements of a film may be free to use—ie, the images may be licensed for reuse, but not the music—always check the license terms with each item.
Flickr’s The Commons offers access to photographs in major public archives from around the world. Restrictions vary by image / source, so be sure to check individual copyright statements.
Large searchable collection of free images (alongside a collection of “premium” content). Be sure to check each image’s license terms before use.
Google Image Search
Use “Advanced search” feature, and limit results to those images with usage rights that have “free to use share or modify” licenses.
Primarily includes digital versions of books and printed materials in the public domain, with some audio, photographs and illustrated material. Use “advanced search” and limit by material type and “full view”. To search everything within a particular media type, use an asterisk (*) instead of a keyword.
Use the “Browse databases by type” dropdown feature to view databases by type including image, sound, and video and primary source databases. Note that licenses for these databases tend not to permit derivative works. For example, the license agreement for the ARTstor database, which is a collection of high resolution images and photographs indicates that the content may be used in student work, but no derivative use is permitted.