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Using Images at University: Home

A Guide for Undergraduate Students

Getting Started

This guide is to assist students using images in academic work. The guide covers where to find images, how to attribute and appropriate usage including copyright and licensing conditions.

While images can be easily found and accessed both online (search engines, websites, etc) and in print (textbooks, journals, posters, etc), not all images are freely available for you to use in your own work. Copyright, image licensing and other conditions can apply, affecting whether an image can be downloaded, scanned, reused or modified.

When selecting images you need to take caution and investigate any copyright restrictions or terms and conditions of use before you go ahead with using one. This may include photographs you have taken of people.

Understanding Copyright

What is copyright?

The work of others is protected by copyright. Copyright law grants a set of exclusive rights to creators of original works. Copyright law may vary in different countries.  

You generally need permission to copy another person's work, to perform works in public, adapt or email a copy, or, upload it to the web.


Fair dealing provisions within the Australian Copyright Act allows students to copy others' work - including images - for research or study purposes. Conditions and limitations apply.  For more information see:

Online Images

Images found on the internet are protected by copyright. Some sites may license images under an Open Access or Creative Commons license, in which case you can use it according to the terms of the license.

If you want to use images in a way not permitted in the terms of use, contact the creator to request permission.

Referencing and Attribution

To fulfil the moral rights requirements of the Copyright Act you must always attribute work that you have copied for your research or study. Images used must also be included in your reference list like any book or journal article used. See the Referencing and Attributing Images tab for more information.


If you have questions regarding copyright feel free to contact our copyright team:

I have an image already - how do I know if I can use it?

Before you can use an image in your work you will need to confirm you have permission to use it.

  • Start by checking the source of the image.
    • Do they provide an image credit or link to the original source?
    • Does it fit within copyright and other permissions?
    • Do you have all the information available to provide an appropriate attribution and reference entry?
  • If you have their details you can contact the creator to ask for permission.
  • If you no longer have the image source try using a reverse look up engine such as TinEye.
  • If you are still not confident find an alternate image. Check the Finding Images tab for suggested resources.

Understanding Creative Commons

Creative Commons Licenses allow people to freely and legally re-use artistic works within license conditions. They do not replace or overrule copyright but work alongside and in addition to copyright, explaining how images and other types of works can be reused.

Always check the license conditions to ensure you are meeting all requirements when using an image. Full license conditions are available on the Creative Commons Australia website. Their Know Your Rights page gives a simple summary of the licenses.

Images in the Public domain: when copyright doesn't apply

Images in the public domain are images where copyright restrictions from the country they were created in are said to no longer apply.

Copyright protections apply to works for a fixed amount of time and will expire in most circumstances. Information on the duration of copyright is available on the Australian Copyright Council website.  In other cases the creator of works may waive their rights to their work.

Images in the public domain can be used, reused and edited as needed. Images in the public domain are not affected by Creative Commons licenses. To assist people in locating images in the public domain Creative Commons have created an easily visually identified icon (pictured below) and public domain dedication to denote works that are in the public domain.

Creative Commons 0 icon

Creators of images in the public domain may also simply use "CC0" or "no rights reserved" in association with their creative work to denote the lack of copyright restrictions applying to their work.

If you are not sure if an image is in the public domain, it is best practice to assume it is not in the public domain and still subject to copyright laws and Creative Commons licensing.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.Acknowledgement of Country

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.