Public Relations Research Resources: Borrow Images and Media

How to Legally Borrow Images & Other Media


Public relations professionals often want to borrow images, including video, photography, graphics, etc. created by others, to visualize their work. The Internet has made that easier to do than in years past. However, borrowing without the content creator's permission may trigger legal action under copyright protections. How can PR professionals avoid this problem?

First, an understanding of what the fuss is all about is helpful ....

What is Intellectual Property?

  • Creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
  • Protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. 
  • See the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to read more about IP

What is Copyright?

What is Creative Commons?

  • Nonprofit organization
  • Provides copyright licenses to share and use others creative work — within certain conditions
  • Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright.
  • Considerations for Licensees (what you need to know before you borrow or modify a work under CC)

Find Media Under Creative Commons

Examples of Other Sources of Legally Copied Media, etc.

​Search Tips

  • Image size and quality: make sure you choose an image that has good pixilation and can withstand being enlarged if needed.
  • Search or keyword terms: Search engines rely on the description of the image in order to locate results. ​However, images that do not have enough descriptive terms assigned to them are difficult to find. Therefore, it is important to brainstorm your keywords: Consider people, location, title, subject matter, time period, artist, or materials. Try using synonyms or variant spellings to expand your search.

​Using the Images or Media

  • After using CC Search or another search engine to locate an image or other media available for legal borrowing, click on the link or button to go to the original website that has the image.
  • Depending on the website that has the image or other media that you want to use, the licensing information should be listed along with a method for downloading or linking.
  • Attributing Creative Commons Materials (.PDF) is an easy guide to embedding attribution and license information about the electronic media you use.

More Information about Creative Commons