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Images and copyright

To use an image on your website, you must have permission from the copyright holder. Images licensed for reuse under Creative Commons are ideal, as you can often satisfy the licence requirements solely with attribution.

If you copy images you find via an internet search and publish them on your website without permission or the necessary attribution, you are plagiarising someone else's creative work and breaking copyright law.

In this article:

Ask for permission

The University requires that you have written approval from the image copyright holder before you publish their image on The copyright holder is the person who created the image or their employer. Approval in an email response is acceptable.

Contact the copyright holder:

  • Ask for permission to use their image on
  • Tell them where you intend to use the image – for example, your department's home page

You should only use the image in the places mutually agreed with the copyright holder.

If the image is a photo of students, for example, you must have their permission to publish the image online. See the Engagement Group's guidance on photography, film and audio consent.

You must comply with the terms of the:

These apply to images and graphics as well as text, as they are also deemed to be personal data.

Images licensed under Creative Commons

To illustrate a concept – for example, cities, microscopic cells or communication – images licensed under Creative Commons are an efficient source. Often, you can satisfy the licence requirements with attribution next to the image. There's no need to contact the creator to get permission in writing.

For example, below is an image of the Curiosity Rover sourced from the Eye for Science Flickr group:

Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars

Photo: Curiosity Rover's Self Portrait at 'John Klein' Drilling Site, Cropped (2013) by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (CC Y-NC-SA 2.0)

There's a link to the license information below the photo on Flickr:

Licence details for Curiosity Rover image circled

How to attribute images licensed under Creative Commons

There is not a clear definition of attribution format. The Creative Commons guidance says:

‘Ask yourself whether an interested viewer/reader/listener/other user is able to easily discern who gets credit (attribution) for the original work, and the freedoms associated with that work (license notice). If they can, great! If not, consider whether you are making a good faith effort to use the licensed work according to its terms.’

For the Curiosity Rover example, we:

  • stated the name of the image and linked the name to the image on Flickr
  • followed the creator's credit instructions ‘NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS’ in the image's description
  • linked to the source on NASA's website
  • followed the Creative Commons link to check the licence version – it's Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic or CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 for short
  • stated the licence version and linked to it in our attribution

Stock images

Stock image libraries are another useful source, though there is often a cost. We use: