While there is an abundance of creative content on the Internet, it can be a challenge to locate material that is freely available. Whether for use in the classroom or for the purpose of a research project, it is important to understand copyright. Copyright is the legal protection extended to the authors of original published or unpublished artistic and intellectual work.  The first step to legally obtaining copyrighted work is to ask permission from the creator. If you are unable to locate the creator, under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. Copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work. Fair use provides a legal exception to the right  an owner has for his or her copyrighted work but only allows the use of portions of the copyrighted work.  Copyright is the law, while fair use is a guideline. There are four factors to determine fair use:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

There are also items that enter into the public domain. When content enters into the public domain, it isn’t necessary to determine fair use. Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited or are inapplicable. US Government work, for example, is generally considered public domain. Creative Commons is a public domain dedication that allows copyright holders to place works in the public domain.  A Creative Commons search can be conducted across multiple websites. There are a variety of great sites for searching Creative Commons and public domain images and video or audio clips.

The following sites offer a host of Creative Commons and public domain image, music and video resources. Many of the resources listed below use the Creative Commons copyright licenses to grant permission to others to use their works. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link. For a list of licenses and what kind of use each one allows, see Creative Commons, About the Licenses.

Image Resources

Photopin searches Flickr images with multiple ways to limit, filter, preview and choose images.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog contains many digitized images. Each collection and most images have copyright information and permissions information included. Look for the “Rights and Restrictions” link or heading.

U.S. Government Photos and Images on provides links to collections of government images. Check the information on each site or image for information about using them.

Wikimedia Commons is a large collection of freely usable media.

In the advanced search in Flickr, check “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” to find work with Creative Commons licenses.

Microsoft offers images, clip art, and animations.

Music Resources

Creative Commons Music for Videos offers links to various music sites that provide creative commons licensed music.

Vimeo searchable database of user-created music, some are available free and have Creative Commons licenses.

Video Resources

Vimeo searchable database of user-created videos, some are available free and have Creative Commons licenses.

Internet Archive Stock Footage Collection Rights to this collection are held by Internet Archive. You may download and reuse material under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

Flickr Creative Commons Search videos on Flickr that are available using Creative Commons licenses.

National Park Service B-roll Video provides links to public domain video sites, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites and related areas.

Open Video Project collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for research communities on a variety of subjects.

–This guide was adapted from the Moraine Valley Community College Library guide: Free eBooks, Images, Music and Videos.