Using Creative Commons images in lectures

Many staff are already turning their attention to putting together their resources for the Spring term. As such the challenge begins to find interesting and engaging images to illustrate lectures, especially as many will be looking to start recording lectures as the University looks to further embed the use of the KentPlayer lecture capture service.

The perennial challenge is two-fold 1) finding images of sufficient quality that can also then be used without breaching the owner’s copyright and 2) recognising that while accessible, many images available on the Internet are not in fact in the public domain and not freely available to use without the copyright holder’s permission.

Thankfully, help is at hand with copyright owners increasingly making their work available under six Creative Commons Licences which enable others to copy, distribute and augment their work on the proviso that certain conditions are met (see below). Which, let’s face it, is a much more palatable way to go about things than spending incredible amounts of time and effort trying to contact them directly for their permission!


Attribution (CC BY)


Attribution – ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)


Attribution – No Derivs (CC BY-ND)


Attribution – Noncommercial (CC BY-NC)




Attribution NonCommercial-ShareAlike



Attribution – NonCommercial-NoDerivs



 Where can I find Creative Commons images?

This all sounds great but where can you find images licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons conditions? Well, you can use Advanced Search or Advanced Image Search in Google, while enables you to search for Creative Commons resources across a number of platforms including Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay, and Flickr.

I have found an image how do I attribute it correctly?

All Creative Commons licenses see those wanting to reuse a work obliged to identify the creator of the work and its licensing conditions, which makes the Attribution license key for academic staff as by having satisfied these simple conditions they are then free to reuse the work in a variety of ways. Those fine folks at Creative Commons have produced a guide for attribution best practice, while there are other tools available such as Photos for Class and the Xpert search engine (developed and maintained by the University of Nottingham) which take things a step further by also adding the correct licensing attribution to the images for you!  Perfect if your discipline and lectures are particularly visual as this will save you a great deal of time in the long run.

 Homepage for the Photos for Class website that enables users to search for CC licensed images and add the licensing details to the images themselves

Xpert Search Engine (University of Nottingham) enables users to search for Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr and automatically adds attribution information to images

Photos for Class and Xpert automatically add CC attribution detail to images


As we have seen Creative Commons presents a quick and easy way to search for and use images in lectures and presentations and more information is available on the University website (

For those staff looking to engage with the KentPlayer lecture recording service for the first time in the Spring term, the elearning team recently ran an e-learning forum presented by the University’s Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer focused specifically on Copyright and Lecture Recording, so please check this out during your preparations.

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