Using Images You Find on the Web

I am a member of a listserv for folks who work in the areas of rhetoric, writing, teaching, and technology. Recently, someone raised the question of how to properly use and cite images found on the web. There are many different responses one could offer, but this is what I wrote in response. It all depends on context, etc. Still, these small notes might be useful.

Dear Listserv Writer:

First of all: thumbs-up for asking!

There are lots of ways to go about using images you find on the web. My general rule is to only use Creative Commons-licensed images that allow for non-commercial, share-alike use. You can very easily find those images using the Creative Commons search page:

In fact, they’ve even got a project dedicated to teaching and learning about licenses and educational materials –

When I find an image that I’d like to use (typically through the CC search of Flickr), I download it and send a quick email to the user to tell him/her that I’m using it and what I’m using it for. Or, if I’m not yet sure I want to use it, I’ll download it and save the file with something like IMAGE DESCRIPTION – FLICKR USERNAME. PNG or something. That way I can keep track of whose image it is so that I can tell them later how and where I used it.

I also license my own work with Creative Commons, including slide decks, published syllabi, and my personal website. I’ve found that folks take pics of slides while I’m giving talks. They also record talks without asking for permissions. So licensing stuff up-front keeps you covered and gives people the credit they deserve for offering up the images in the first place.

Here’s an example of a slide deck of mine that uses and attributes images –

For more information, I HIGHLY recommend the Center for Social Media’s work on this, especially their piece on “The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.” See here –

They also offer plenty of “best practices” and FAQs for students, researchers, and educators.

Hope this is useful.


3 responses to “Using Images You Find on the Web

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