User-Generated Content in Education/Image Content

Introduction edit

Images play a major part in helping readers and listeners to comprehend and learn about ideas, concepts, and systems. They help people focus on a particular topic and can be used to generate conversation, deeper thought, and emotional reactions that lead to a greater likelihood that what they have learned will be absorbed and applied. User-generated content can benefit greatly by the inclusion of images that clarify, extend thinking, and offer perspective, as well as images that add to the readability and enjoyment of text.

When using images in user-created content, care should be taken that images are used with appropriate permission, a requirement that is most difficult to meet when publishing content that is to be freely shared on the Internet. There are a number of options for obtaining images to enhance user-generated content. In addition, users may create their own images as part of the process for creating user-generated content; that is, user-generated images created for user-generated content.

This page will describe the types of image licenses that are available, how they might be used in user-generated content, and information about some particularly useful sites for obtaining images.

Types of Licenses edit

The world of images can be a confusing one. How can users find what they need and make sure that it is legal to use what they find?

The first step would be to identify sources of images and what kind of licensing is being used. Images in the public domain[1] may be used freely. There is no longer copyright on the image, or the creator of the image has released the image to the public domain. You can change the image and use it for any purpose. However, you should remember that giving credit to the creator of the image for his work may be needed for academic integrity, especially if the image includes content.

Some images are published with a Creative Commons[2] license, which will provide a certain set of privileges to users of those images.

Provider-Supplied License. Other image collections may reside on their own website and be controlled by a license that is published at that site. These licenses can be wildly different from each other, ranging from those that are similar to "public domain" to those that allow free use of images only in certain, unusual situations.

Commercial License. There are numerous companies that sell images and establish specific rules for use of what has been sold. It is possible to purchase images that may be used in user-generated content.

Copyrighted images. If an image has not been released to the public domain or given a Creative Commons or provider-supplied license, the creator or the company that purchased the rights to that image still will maintain the usual copyright privileges. Use of the images requires permission from the owner of the copyright. That permission can be obtained by writing to the owner of the image or purchasing the rights through the company's website.

Be careful. There is no guarantee that images that were uploaded by users are actually in the public domain, or have a Creative Commons license. If you suspect that an image does not belong to the person or organization that has stored that image, you might want to avoid using it.

Fair Use. If an image is to be used within a classroom setting for educational reasons, there may be some legal ability to use even commercial images. Standards of fair use must be applied.[3] Generally, though, using images for which free use has been provided will be a better strategy when creating user-generated content, especially that which is published on the Internet.

Public Domain Images edit

NASA photograph in public domain. The supernova remnant Cassiopeia.

Images that are public domain can be freely used, without attribution, for your own personal use, for publication, on web pages, or for commercial projects.

When you look for public domain images, remember that "free" does not necessarily equal "public domain." Some images that can be used for free have an accompanying use requirement that might not include posting on the web, commercial use, or on Wiki Foundation sites.

A large number of images are available on U.S. government sites because images originally produced by the U.S. government are considered to be in the public domain.

Listings of U.S. government photos and images: Sample collection from the National Zoo:

Open Clip Library has a collection of images that were placed in the Public Domain:

Open Clip Art Library public domain image license through Creative Commons

You can read the Wikipedia article about Open Clip Library here: and see a list of potential public domain collections here:

People can also take photos of art that is out of copyright and place the photo in the public domain.[4]

Creative Commons Images edit

Creative Commons provides a way for users to designate the kind of licensing they wish to assign to their own work. Take a look at the descriptions of the Creative Commons licenses:

The organization also assists those who wish to assign public domain to their work.[5]

If you want to search for images with Creative Commons licensing, try or

Another site that lets you locate Creative Commons licensed images, but also displays images that have commercial or some other kind of licensing:

Provider-Supplied License Images edit

A number of sites on the Internet provide collections of images that can be used in user-generated content. If selecting from one of these sites, make sure that you read the licensing agreement. Sometimes there are generous conditions, where you can use the image on a web site that you create, in a book you publish, in presentations, even for a client. Other times, the license is more limited, confined to personal use.

Some of the images from this category of image collections should not be uploaded for use in a WikiBook page. For example, if you locate this photo on stock.xchng at and read about the license, you'll see that you can use it for yourself, on a web site, or for a client. However, it can't be posted in Wikibooks. Wiki Foundation only allows users to upload and use an image on a wiki page if the image is owned by person who uploaded the image, if it has a specific kind of Creative Commons, Share Alike 3.0 license, if the image was created by the U.S. government, and some other specialized situations. See the section on Images and Wikipedia below for more information. [6]

Some sites provide images that are free for certain types of uses:

Both sites above provide some high quality images and generous granting of rights for users to publish the images. Generally, you do not have the rights to distribute the image and you do not own the copyright.

There are also sites that allow users with accounts to upload images and to indicate what kind of licensing they will assign. Some could be added to content without cost.

An example:

If you want to search for images with Creative Commons licensing, try or

For more information on obtaining free use of images for user-generated content, check out 12-best-places-to-get-free-images-for-your-site

Commercial Images edit

Commercial images are obtained at a cost and include specific rights for usage. Those rights can range from personal use only to posting on web sites. Copyright usually stays with the owner of image, though it might be possible to purchase not only the use of the image but the copyright itself.

Many of these images are of great quality and you can find what you want efficiently. If you don't need an image in high resolution, the cost tends to be less.

As with provider-provided licensing, you need to read the terms of agreement to make sure you can use the image as you plan.

In some situations, especially for adults, purchasing these images makes sense. If it saves a lot of time and effort, you are very satisfied with the appearance or functionality of the image within what you are publishing, and the licensing allows you to easily share user-generated content, spending some money on the images could be an option.

Examples of commercial image sites:

Images and Wikipedia edit

Photo uploaded and donated to Wikimedia and given a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license

Wikipedia and associated Wiki Foundation sites like WikiBooks require that user-created images are uploaded by registered users. If you are using a Wiki Foundation site to contribute images, you'll need to establish an account then upload the images you wish to use. In general, all images must be created by you, in the public domain, or available through a Creative Commons type of license.

After signing into Wikimedia Commons, for example, you may choose the Upload file option the is available on the left hand side of the screen. Wikimedia Commons requires that you provide copyright information for the image, since you are are actually agreeing to share it with everyone.

This is the language that is used on that agreement page:

This file is my own work.
I,___________ , the copyright holder of this work, hereby irrevocably grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, as long as they credit me and share derivative work under the same terms.
I,______________ , the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish this work under the following license:

You then can choose between these three Creative Commons licenses:

  • Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0
  • Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
  • Public domain (all rights waived with Creative Commons Zero license)[7]

If you choose "This file is not my own work," you may still be able to upload the image. For instance, you can upload an image that has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0, original work of the US Federal Government, or a photograph of original artwork that is now in the public domain.

Once the upload is complete, you will be given a line of code for your wiki page that will allow you to use the image within a page you are creating. You will also be given a URL, which will be helpful in sharing your image with others.

For more information about uploading and using images from Wikipedia Commons, take a look at this article.

If you do start an account and log in, you can also see information about this on Commons Upload Wizard.

References edit

  1. Public Domain. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from:
  2. Creative Commons. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from:
  3. U.S. Government Copyright Office. Fair Use. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from:
  4. Schultz, J. (2010, September 21). When it's Illegal to Photograph Artwork. [Blog post]. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from:
  5. Creative Commons. Our Public Domain Tools. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from: //
  6. Images. Retrieved October 16, 2011 from:
  7. Upload Wizard. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from: