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It is a good choice to use images that are in the public domain or have a clearly designated creative commons license in your projects. But what if you have found an image that is perfect for your argument and are unable to determine its copyright status? When completing a class assignment or doing other scholarly work, you can often make an argument for fair use of copyrighted images, audio, video, and written content.
Fair use permits use of copyrighted material without permission or payment for a limited set of functions. It may apply if you are using published or publicly shared images for a non-commercial, scholarly purpose that either will not affect the potential market for the original work or is “transformative”.
Your argument will be stronger if you are:
- linking to an image someone else is hosting, rather than uploading your own copy
- using a smaller or lower resolution image than the original
- directly discussing the image, rather than using it decoratively
For more information on creative commons, copyright, and evaluating fair use arguments, see the next tab.
Includes a large collection of images, in addition to smaller collections of video and sound.
Openly licenses images (and some audio) that is under creative commons licenses or in the public domain
Stock photography that's free for reuse. In newspaper publishing, a "morgue file" is a place to keep post production materials for reference.
On the search results screen, click on "Search Tools" to see the options for filtering by usage rights.
Use the menu underneath "Any license" to choose from Creative Commons-licensed images.
free, generally copyright free stock, images, videos and music.
Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash.
Search for creative commons licensed videos and, categorized by types of allowable reuse
Congressional Pictorial Directory
A compilation of color photographs of every member of congress. As a US government work, it is free from copyright restrictions.
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
The Digital Public Library of America makes millions of materials (including images, audio, and video) from libraries, archives, and museums available all in a one-stop discovery experience. For individual rights information about an item, please check the “Rights” field in the metadata, or follow the link to the digital object on the content provider’s website for more information.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
over 900,000 items digitized from the NYPL collections, including maps, photography, books, letters. posters, and illustrations. RIghts vary, so check the rights statement for each item's limitations for reuse. Many items are in the public domain and able to be used without resitriction.
Library of Congress (LOC) Free to Use Collection
This page features items from the Library's digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use. In addition to this specific resource, the LOC has millions of newspapers, prints, photos, scores, maps, and sound recordings that have varying copyright restrictions that you will need to check for the rights statement
Getty Open Content
The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.
New Old Stock
Vintage photos from public archives free of known copyright restrictions
Music and Sound Effects
Provides podcast- and video-ready music with tag searching to help you find the genres, instruments, or feel you're looking for.
Free Music Archive
Search and browse in multiple genres.
As the name implies, iBeat focuses on hip hop beats and drum loops. All music is free to use.
Recordings of public domain musical compositions. You'll find mostly classical music here.
BBC Sound Effects
These 16,016 BBC Sound Effects are made available by the BBC in WAV format to download for use under the terms of the RemArc Licence. The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.
Huge database of sound effects, samples, and other audio clips that are licensed using creative commons.
Free audio recordings of public domain books. Authors include Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Jefferson.
Videos, B-roll, and Interviews
Presidential Speech Archive
Access audio and video recordings of official presidential speeches from Harding to Obama.
Access the secretly recorded private conversations of presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Transcripts are fully searchable for Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.
500,000+ free stock footage clips, motion graphics, video templates, stock music tracks and sound effects
National Park Service (NPS)
Photos, videos, clips, podcasts from the National Park Serivce, labelled clearly with copyright restrictions and many in the public domain
free stock footage videos, photos, and music tracks