Picture Perfect

Considering copyright in your classroom materials

Can't I just use Google Images?

When you're producing a worksheet, PowerPoint presentation or poster you will more than likely want to use images from the Web to make your work look attractive. However, you aren't entitled to take whichever photograph, clip art or other image you like from a Google Image search; more often than not these images will be protected by copyright.

You might argue that it's OK to use anything for an educational purpose. The Copyright Licensing Agency say, however, that "copying or displaying material for your students would not qualify" under the definition of 'fair use', which only applies to materials used for research or private study.

Instead, I recommend you seek images which are not copyrighted, and which are therefore free to use. Furthermore, encourage and teach your students to do the same!

How should I go about acquiring images to use?

There are a number of ways to find images that are still free to use, but which are not covered by copyright restrictions.

  • The Copyright Licensing Agency schools' licence entitles educators to use images produced by a number of 'participating publishers', which have opted in to the licence. A list of these organisations can be found here

  • Many photographers and other creative people publish their images under a 'Creative Commons' licence. Creative Commons is a globally recognised non-profit organisation whose licences "provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share use creative work". Find out more here.

CC-licensed works are typically free to use but sometimes an attribution to the creator is required. Below are some of my favourite resources for finding CC-licensed images.

Recommended free image sources


Often you'll find on these sites that the creators of images have requested that anyone using their photo attributes the image back to them. This is very easy to do and we should try to do it whenever it is asked for, by adding a line of text in a small font at the bottom of the work in which the image is used.

Here are some examples of how I would attribute an image to its creator: