Google Image Search Adds Easy Interface for Finding Images Licensed for Re-Use

Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written a number of posts over the years about Creative Commons licenses, which are intended to “give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.” For example, I’ve explained how to find free online content that you’re allowed to re-use. Jason showed us the basics of searching the photo site Flickr for images with Creative Commons licenses. And Julie discussed using Creative Commons licensed material in the classroom.

Recently, Google’s Matt Cutts took to Twitter to announce a change to the search interface for Google Images, making it easier for users to find Creative Commons licensed images:

So, how does this work in practice?

Let’s say you’re searching Google Images for some pictures of medieval manuscripts cute cats. You will likely end up with a page of results that looks something like the screenshot below (click to enlarge).


If you then click on “Search Tools,” a menu will appear, offering several options for refining your search:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Type
  • Time
  • Usage Rights
  • More Tools

Selecting “Usage Rights” then allows you to identify those images that you are free to re-use without having to secure permission from the creators.


Your choices are

  • labeled for re-use
  • labeled for commercial re-use
  • labeled for re-use with modification
  • labeled for commercial re-use with modification

Easy. Now, you’ve always been able to search Google Images for Creative Commons licensed images, but you had to find your way to the advanced search interface. What’s new here is that you can conduct advanced searches right from the Google Images homepage.

What are your search strategies for finding Creative Commons licensed materials? Please share in the comments.

[CC-licensed Flickr photo by Kristina Alexanderson]

Return to Top