Finding & Using Images


This guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions, please contact EMU's Legal Affairs Office.

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There are billions of images online. But only a fraction of the images are freely available to reuse or modify for your specific uses.

Below is a list of sites that contain images that are free to use, modify, adapt without asking for permission.

If you find images elsewhere online, make sure to check the permissions/terms of use to ensure you are using images legally and ethically.

Note: Many museums and archives have digital collections that provide access to images that are in the public domain as well as under copyright.

What if the image I want to use is protected by copyright?

If there is an image you want to use, and it isn't in the public domain or licensed from free use, you will need to contact the copyright holder for permission to use it.

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office has an excellent guide on "Obtaining Copyright Permissions."

Public Domain Images

Images in the public domain are either works that were once copyrighted, but the copyright expired, or they are works where the copyright holder has relinquished all copyrights and donated the works to the public domain.

No permission is needed to copy, modify, or publicly display these works.

Government Documents

Images from U.S. government agencies are in the public domain.

Below is a select list of image libraries from federal agencies:

Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) | NIH Image Gallery |

Creative Commons Licensed Works

Many creators of images make their works available for use by others by assigning Creative Commons licenses to them. The creators are giving certain permissions to use their creations, so you don't have to seek any permissions.

Please see our Creative Commons guide for information about the different licenses and each license permits.

Stock Image Sites

Stock images are photos, icons, illustrations and other visual materials available to use in print and online. Stock image sites can be free or fee-based.

Photo by Ben Moreland on Unsplash
  Free Stock Image Sites

Fee-Based Stock Image Sites