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Public Domain & Creative Commons Images

When you are adding images, videos and other content that you did not create to your presentation, it is important to make sure that you are not violating anyone's copyright. One way to do so is to find public domain images for your presentations. “Public domain” refers to works in which copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that they will not assert copyright in the work.

Don’t assume that everything you find on the internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available.  When using online materials, you should make sure your use falls within fair dealing, another exception in the Copyright Act, or is covered under the permissions given in the website’s ‘Terms of Use’, or ‘Legal Notices’ section. Even if a work that you use is in the public domain, it is advisable to provide attribution for the work.

If you can't find Public Domain media that fit your needs, you can also use Creative Commons-licensed content as long as you ensure that you correctly attribute this content to its creator and otherwise meet the terms of the license under which the image is offered. You can find more information about this on the Creative Commons FAQ.

Note: Even if content is covered by a Creative Commons license, you must always make sure that your use does not violate that license and that you properly attribute the content.

creative commons logo

There are numerous sources of Creative Commons-licensed content, including: 

Originally called Creative Commons, this site includes an option to search for Creative Commons content across numerous sources, including Flickr, Google and Wikimedia Commons among many others.

This section of Flickr offers images that are available under a Creative Commons license and also explains the different types of Creative Commons licenses. You can also search for Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr by first typing in your search term and then clicking on the any license drop down menu. 

This image search engine returns both Creative Commons and non-Creative Commons images. When you download any image, you can also download the necessary HTML to appropriately attribute the image to its creator.

Wikimedia Commons
This site offers fully searchable access to media, such as images, audio and videos, that has been uploaded by users, mainly for use on Wikipedia. Most of the content is available under some sort of Creative Commons license and licensing information is clearly provided at the bottom of each piece of media's individual page.

Open Clip Art
Clip art and icons

Thousands of high quality public domain images all licensed under a creative commons zero license.

Popular resource for finding images. Provide a credit.
A search engine that will find CC-licensed images by colour
Digital Image Library has made all of its images available through CC-BY-SA licenses.
Search Smithsonian Open Access, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images.
Welcome Collection

Includes both CC-licensed and copyright-protected images - click on the ‘Licenses’ drop-down menu to select a specific CC license or public domain. 

Flaticon and The Noun Project have graphics and images that are available through CC licenses

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection Online has an open access for scholarly content collection (specific citations are required).

The Internet Archive has a collection of book images that are all in the public domain.

Images in the French Revolution Digital Archive are free for non-commercial use.

The following resources allow users to find public domain images for use in their projects. While these are certainly not the only sources for public domain materials, they do make it particularly easy to find images and ensure that they are in the public domain.

Public Domain Image Resources
This page, maintained by Wikipedia, provides hundreds of links to online resources for finding public domain images and other content online. While not all of the sites include exclusively public domain images, this list is a good place to start looking for content, particularly if you are looking for more specialized items.

Perform a search using Bing Images, then limit your results to Public Domain images by clicking on "License" in the menu below the search box and selecting Public Domain.

A site that provides many free, public domain images. Note that it also offers Shutterstock images, which aren't free. The search feature is particularly nice, supporting Boolean connectors and also the ability to search by predominant color of the image.

Getty Open Content Program
The purpose of the Getty's Open Content Program is to "share images of works of art in an unrestricted manner, freely, so that all those who create or appreciate art…will have greater access to high-quality digital images for their studies and projects." All images found through this program should be credited as "Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program."


While the resources on this guide all aim to provide access to Creative Commons and public domain images, please note that we cannot guarantee that all of the resources found on these sites will not violate copyright.

Acknowledgement & Further Sources

The content of much of this portion of this guide is based on Finding Public Domain and Creative Commons Media, created by  Harvard University's Law School Library, and used with permission. 

For more recommended image resources, consult the guide.

Click here for a great guide on the public domain produced by UBC.