Need help learning about research methods? The Sage Research Methods site provides access to ebooks, guides for qualitative and quantitative research, video explainers, practice datasets, and case examples of how other researchers have approached projects. The site includes communication and media studies-specific resources.
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:
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.
Use the “Any license” drop-down menu to filter your results according to images’ allowed uses. On each image’s individual page, copyright information is at bottom right.
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 image search feature, click the Tools option, then click the Usage rights menu, and limit results to those images with appropriate rights.
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.
Free, high-resolution stock photos for use in creative projects. Photographers should be credited, and some restrictions apply. Consult the morguefile license.
(From the site: “A morgueFile is a place to keep post production materials for use of reference, an inactive job file,” and “the term … is popular in the newspaper business.”)
Over 600 public domain sound recordings, including ambient and nature sounds, domestic and mechanical sounds, voice clips, and more.
Qwant Image Search
Search, then select the "Images" filter on the left. Limit results to those images with appropriate usage rights by selecting from the License menu at the top.
Over 600 digitized newsreel films produced from 1929 to 1967. Gifted into the public domain by Universal City Studios in 1976.
Library Guide to Digital Collections
The guide presents a list of digital collections. Before using images from these collections, be sure to check copyright and license agreements.
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.