The demand for images online is huge, everything seems to require an image. They are used to illustrate, market, create great packaging such as a book cover, DVD, product boxes, and more.

Bloggers, website designers and graphic designers are on the lookout for great images all the time. If they have a tight budget, they will often go to free stock photo sites like Pixabay or visit Wikimedia Commons. Many make the mistake of thinking that just because it says Creative Commons on the license, they can do whatever they wish.

However, this is not the case. The Creative Commons copyright licensing varies, so you can only legally use the image under those specific terms.

The Basic License – Attribution CC BY

Under the terms of this license, you can do anything with the work, such as use it commercially or create other works (derivatives) from it.

You should cite the creator of the work and give a link back to the URL where you got the image. Even if it does not ask for this on the page where you get the image, if you see CC, be sure to give a credit.


This is the most common license at Wikipedia, allowing users to remix, tweak, and add onto an image, and to use the item or the new version even for commercial purposes, as long as you credit the copyright holder. Note that the new items would carry the same license; you would not own them exclusively.


NoDerivs means no derivatives; that is, things derived or created from the original. This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, of an item provided that it is NOT changed in any way, and credit is given.


This license will allow you to change the original work in whatever manner you wish, but the copyright holder must be given credit and the use must be non-commercial.

Attribution-NonCommercial ShareAlike

This license allows users to remix, tweak, and add onto an image, but the derivative can’t be used for commercial purposes. The new items would carry the same license; you would not own them exclusively or be the copyright holder.


This license is the most restrictive of the six main CC licenses. It only allows you to download an image and use it as is, with no changes, and without the goal of making money from it directly. You must give a credit for the work.

Public Domain

One other important license to note which is also regulated by CC is the “all rights granted” area, commonly referred to as public domain. In some cases, a creator may wish to waive all rights, in which case the item can be used for any purpose and in any manner you wish, derivative, commercial, and so on. Many government organizations produce images and diagrams that they release to the public domain for free usage. However, it is always courteous to provide a credit and link.

To learn more, visit:

Can I Legally Use This Image? Understanding Creative Commons Options
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