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How To Legally Use Images From The Web In Your Hubs

Updated on January 16, 2012

Legally Use Images From The Web In Your Hubs

Every great hub needs some images, both for illustration and to help keep a reader's attention, but not all of us are photographers with a huge number of photos at our fingertips. And even if you are a photographer, chances are you won't have an image for every topic you might want to write about.

You're no doubt aware that there are copyright laws out there, and that it is ethically wrong (not to mention illegal) to use other peoples' work without their permission. Just imagine how you would feel if someone came along and stole the text of your hubs and presented it online as their own. It happened to me, and I was outraged, and I would never want to do the same thing to a photographer who worked hard to create a great image.

So where are we supposed to get images to use on our hubs or other web properties? Thankfully, there's something out there called the Creative Commons License, and it allows us to use other people's images, with their permission and without any lengthy procedure to gain that permission.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that works with content creators to allow them to maintain their ownership and copyright while sharing their work with others who want to copy, remix or use them for commercial or other purposes. The creator of the work decides what level of sharing they want to use when licensing their property, and so long as you follow those rules you're in the clear.

A Creative Commons License allows content creators to reserve all, some or none of the rights to their work. It's even possible to search for images and other works based on the license type, and you'll probably be amazed at the wide variety of subject matter that's available for you to use legally and for free!

Where To Find Creative Commons Licensed Works

The easiest way I have discovered for finding images that are covered under the Creative Commons License is this Search Tool provided by Creative Commons. This link will open in a new window, so I suggest you click on it and follow along!

At the top of the page is a search box, and next to that are two pre-checked boxes: "use for commercial purposes" and "modify, adapt or build upon". These options ensure that any images you find will be usable for free on your hubs. Enter the subject of the image you want to find and click "Go". For this demo, I'll be searching for "siberian tiger".

Along the top of the results page are tabs for different image sources. The most comprehensive is the Google Images tab - it usually includes all of the results available in the other tabs. The tabs I use most often are the Flickr and WikiMedia Commons ones - Flickr because it has an easy to use crediting system, and WikiMedia because it often shows some Public Domain images, which require no credit at all (more on crediting later).

Once you find an image you like, click on it to find out what the license terms are. For this example, I've clicked on an image from Flickr and scrolled down to the usage rights section.

Clicking where it says "Some rights reserved" brings up the Attribution page.

At the top in the green section, you can see what you're allowed to do with the image. For this image, you're allowed to Share the image (i.e. use it on our hub) and Remix the image (for example, to use Photoshop to alter it or add it to a collage).

In the next pink section is a link that you must use on your hub to give credit to the author and indicate that the image is covered by the Creative Commons License. Take special note that you have to use the whole link, not just something that says you took the image from Flickr or just the photographers name.

Notice that it does not say where you have to place the link - if you don't want to draw attention away from your own content, you can place the photo credit link at the end of your hub. This is what I usually do, especially when I use a whole bunch of images. But sometimes I like to credit the photographer right along with the photo - for instance, in my Endangered Species hub, the credit is given with each image. On most of my other hubs, I just add a list of links to give credit to the photographers, like at the end of my Equipment For A Zombie Apocalypse hub.

How To Use The Attribution Link

Actually using the link here on HubPages takes a bit of work. Because of the way it's formatted, you can't just paste the code into a link capsule and be done with it. Instead, you need to create the link in a text capsule using the built-in HTML Editor, which you can learn more about at a hub I wrote called How To Use The HubPages HTML Editor In Your Text Capsules.

First, create a text capsule on your hub where you want the link to appear. Click the little "HTML" button at the top left side of the text capsule toolbar. This brings up the HTML Editor.

Right before the "</p>" tag, paste the link from Flickr.

Now click the "Clean up HTML" button at the top of the editor to reformat the link to HubPages standards. Finally, click on "Update to Editor" at the top and you'll be returned to your text capsule. Go the first line and type something like "Image courtesy of " before the link.

Now you can save your changes and you're done!

NEW! Attribution Made Easy!

HubPages has added a new feature to the Photo Capsule that allows you to easily attribute photos used in your hubs!

When you edit a Photo Capsule, there is now a spot where you may add "Name of source" for the image as well as the "Source URL".

Using these new features will display the attribution directly below the image, along with any caption you wish to include. The "Name of Source" will be converted to a hyperlink below the caption that points to the "Source URL" that you specified.

(Thanks to reader "talfonso" for suggesting I add this update!)

Public Domain Images

If you choose to use the WikiMedia Commons tab instead, you can often find images that are in the public domain, as well as Flickr images that are covered by the section above. Some images are not covered by copyright issues, either because the photographer has released all of his rights, or because the image was created by a public agency, like the U.S. Government. These photos do not require any attribution if you use them on your hub.

On the right, you can see an example of an image where the copyright holder relinquished his copyright and released his image to the public domain.

As an example of a public domain image, the Creative Commons logo image I used at the top of this hub is in the public domain, as you can see from this page at WikiCommons.

Here's Creative Commons In a Nutshell

The following video is mainly focused towards the music biz, but it's themes apply to image sharing just as well. Check it out!

What's Creative Commons All About?


Part of being a responsible Internet Citizen is following the rules of copyright, and using the Creative Commons License is one of the easiest ways to make sure that you aren't stealing another persons work. The Creative Commons License isn't the only one out there, but the implementation of it at Flickr makes it so easy that it has become my go-to site for images that aren't in the public domain.

Happy Hubbing!

Take the Poll!

Will you be giving proper credit in your hubs from now on?

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Submit a Comment
  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from United States

    I'm not a lawyer, so I am not going to go out on a limb and say Yes or No. Check out the issues of "Fair Use" (Google it) and see if it applies to you...

    I will say that in most cases of copyright, if you *think* you you might be violating someone's copyright, you probably are!

  • wordcloud profile image


    9 years ago

    Hi ED Thank you for the informaton, its interesting but I still have few questions and concerns regarding Images or copyright law. At present I'm in mid launch of a new blog/site dicussing Game Reviews and gaming in general ( However I ideally need to show images/photos of these games on my site.

    Would it be legel for me to take images from the Creator of the games and publish them on my website, or would I need to contact the creators everytime I wished to do a new post? I'm fairly sure it would be legal for me to buy the games myself and then take photos which I post to my site?

    One last question if you don't mind, would be TV related, if I were to take a screen shot of a TV show could I legally show that on my site? Thanks for your time.

  • Lady Quill profile image

    Lady Quill 

    9 years ago

    What a fantastic hub!! So much info here, I'll have to keep referring back. How long did this take you to research and write up???

  • Keri Summers profile image

    Keri Summers 

    9 years ago from West of England

    I'll have a go at Flickr and the HTML stuff soon having read your instructions, haven't tried that yet. But I'm so pleased to find Hubbers taking copyright seriously and helping others to "do the right thing"!

  • parentsreview profile image


    9 years ago from Lansdowne, PA

    This is great! Just what I've been looking for.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from United States

    @Krysanthe - You are correct! This hub was written before the new HubPages photo capsule had a place for attribution alongside the image, so the credit was placed at the end of the hub. And, yes, it is a "double link" that points to both the photographer and the license.

  • Krysanthe profile image

    Kathy Hull 

    9 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois

    Wow! Such great information. I feel so much more educated. Thanks.

    As I followed along I couldn't find a single picture where the link was actually in the attribution section. After reading the comments, I tried to see how to build my own and it seems your link below where you attributed the tiger picture is actually be two links. Am I right about that? Is that so the photographer is attibuted along with the cc liscense?

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    hi am using more images in my hub thank u for tips.... nice hub!! Cheers

  • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

    Mrs. Menagerie 

    10 years ago from The Zoo

    Awesome,awesome,awesomely useful hub! Thanks soooo much.

  • Harlan Colt profile image

    Harlan Colt 

    10 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

    BAH! That's what photoshop is for! To change people's photos just enough they have no claim. HA! Of course I am just kidding. This hub is awesome and I am going to bookmark it. Thanks Ed. I am now a fan!

    - Harlan

  • ssteinberger profile image


    10 years ago

    Awesome review with great advice! In Germany - where I live and work - many lawyers are very keen on sueing publishers that are not attributing correctly - it's a bit sad, actually :-/

    Therefore, I really like for free images, because all fotos are under Creative Commons CC0, which allows arbitrary use (also commercial) without any attribution - and all images are free of course.



  • Lady Blah Blah profile image

    Lady Blah Blah 

    10 years ago from South Carolina

    Thanks for providing this information so clearly. This is exactly what I needed to get started.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I use for images. You have to put a credit with each image used. They have great images in lots of categories.

  • BigSerious profile image

    Christen Roberts 

    10 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

    Fantastic!! As a new hubber, I was running into search issues, not clearly understanding terminology, etc. This is a great resource. A million thanks for sharing!

  • renegadetory profile image

    Carolyn Dahl 

    10 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

    Very useful information! Thanks!

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    @Word Wise - Assuming that one the rights allowed is "for commercial use", it should be acceptable to use a link to the photo and/or to the photographers profile (if the photo is from a site like flickr) as the attribution.

  • Word Wise profile image

    Word Wise 

    10 years ago

    I do have a question. I don't mean to take advantage of you, but I find a photo "some rights reserved." I go to the copyright page and it gives me permission to use it with attribution. But no attribution is in the pink area, and I don't know how to find it. If you have time, I'd be grateful for an answer.


  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    @Word Wise - I'm glad this hub helped, and good luck at HubPages :D

  • Word Wise profile image

    Word Wise 

    10 years ago

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This newbie, who is somewhat techno challenged, was almost in tears of frustration until I read your piece. I've written my first Hub and have uploaded my first image--with attribution, of course. I plan to have the Hub published tonight (if my brain doesn't give out) or tomorrow morning. (I hope this last sentence isn't considered promoting my hub--I don't think it is, but I certainly don't want to break any rules.)

    Again, I'm so grateful for such an informative and useful article (about so many things--not just attribution.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    @talfonso - I have seen it but haven't tried it! When I do I may update this hub to show those changes. Thanks for tip!

  • talfonso profile image


    10 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

    Update: the new Photos capsule makes attributing photos a lot easier. Have you tried it?

  • sandun81 profile image


    10 years ago

    Great Hub sir. I used to Google and just get any image. But now I know it's wrong. Will follow your guidance from the next Hub !

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    @GmaGoldie - which "Wikipedia commons" site are you referring to? If you mean "" there is a "Licensing" section for each photo...

    If you mean a different site let me know and I'll look into it!

  • GmaGoldie profile image

    Kelly Kline Burnett 

    10 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


    Just found this great Hub!

    Question - how do I check the rights in Wikipedia commons? I used a photo from what I believe is a standard photo in the public domain but don't know how to confirm - just asked out on the forums and found this Hub.

    Please help!

  • samiaali profile image


    10 years ago

    Thank you for such an informative and useful Hubpage.

  • chrysstil profile image


    10 years ago

    great hub and very usefull.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    Unless an image caption is a link, it isn't actually good enough for photos that require a hyper-linked attribution...

  • talfonso profile image


    10 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

    I use the attribution link as the captions of the photos I use, but you Hub is useful anyway.

  • MickS profile image


    10 years ago from March, Cambridgeshire, England

    excellent, well written useful stuff Ed.



  • TwO1FouR profile image


    10 years ago from Dallas, TX

    Very useful. Had some pics and images straight from google that I'm not sure are legal to use. I'll definitely use this now. Better safe than sorry!

  • samsons1 profile image


    10 years ago from Tennessee

    voted up & useful! thanks again Edweirdo, for an excellent hub. Always enjoy reading your creative and inspiring work. I always find new ideas to incorporate.

  • The Power Glider profile image

    The Power Glider 

    10 years ago from Southeast Idaho

    Great Information! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • bizchickblogs profile image

    Tania Wright 

    10 years ago from Dallas, TX

    This is great information. I love using both Flickr and WikiMedia Commons.

  • salt profile image


    10 years ago from australia

    Thankyou, again useful. I will watch the video and I already use creative commons, but just use the url and link tab. I havent had to use the html. I will try it and see the difference. Excellent explanation.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from United States

    @rickwiedelman - Assuming you mean that the photo is from Flickr and covered by Creative Commons, but you don't automatically get the link? Sometimes it's a bit flaky, and if you go back and click again it may work...

    If that's the case and the link still doesn't appear, you can create the link yourself! (Look at the link all the way at the end of this hub for an example)

    The first part of the link is the photographer's profile page; the second part is the type of CC license. You can get the license type from the "Some rights reserved" link on the Flickr photo page - just use the URL in the address bar that appears after you click "Some rights reserved"

    Or look for a different photo - that's usually the easiest route ;)

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Excellent information! I definitely do not know where I would be if I did not stumble across this hub.

    I have a question however: I came across a photo that I can attribute, share, and modify, however a link was not provided for me. Why is this? Also, how can I still use this photo?

  • alexhd57 profile image


    10 years ago

    Great guide, especially on how to attribute here on hubpages which isn't as easy as it could be.

  • Riviera Rose profile image

    Riviera Rose 

    10 years ago from South of France

    I've always found legal image sourcing on the web complicated, so this was such a useful hub, thanks Edweirdo!

  • flinchwymer profile image


    10 years ago from West Yorkshire U.K.

    Very useful hub, Edweirdo. Thanks for sharing this info.

  • ns1209 profile image


    10 years ago from UK - England

    Will try to think about this from now on!

  • LarasMama profile image


    11 years ago from a secret location, Australia

    Awesome hub! Thanks for the info, I've been wondering about this...

  • daisyjae profile image


    11 years ago from Canada

    Thank you for this information, very helpful.

  • Tara Tufford profile image

    Tara Tufford 

    11 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

    Edweirdo, thank you for the in depth description! I actually may come back to this hub for future reference if I forget anything:) Thanks for answering my question and for the hub read! Very informative:)

  • profile image


    11 years ago from Chicago IL

    Hi Edweirdo. I've been writing up a storm but haven't posted yet. And, this is the very thing that was holding me back. Well, that and the fact that I couldn't figure out how to use the HTML code in the text capsule. This Hub and your Hub on How to Use the HTML Editor in Your Text Capsule. Very helpful.

    Also, my husband is a photographer and agrees one should never assume an Image is free to use - that each image should be checked individually.

  • shazwellyn profile image


    11 years ago from Great Britain

    Brilliant! Im going to use this as a regular resource and have put this hub in my firefox tabs. I appreciate this - thanks! X

  • Grant's World profile image

    Grant Handford 

    11 years ago from Canada

    This is excellent. Thanks for creating this hub, very important information here.

  • thevoice profile image


    11 years ago from carthage ill

    solid hub info well done

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 

    11 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    Thanks for the information.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    11 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Good information and hub.

  • Edweirdo profile imageAUTHOR


    11 years ago from United States

    @Marisa Wright - I agree that Google Image Search is unreliable and we should never assume that an image is under the CC license just because it's listed on Google. That's why I recommend using the CC tool and then checking the rights from Flickr or WikiMedia Commons after finding an image.

    As for the CC attribution link, point #4 in the FAQ link you provided states that the type of license should be included in the attribution:

    "Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website."

    This is also mentioned at the very end on the CC License page that appears when you click on the "Some rights reserved" link on the Flick page:

    "Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page."

    It is necessary to cite the specific license in use, so that's why I recommend using the entire link provided, since it includes both the author attribution and the license type.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Marisa Wright profile image

    Kate Swanson 

    11 years ago from Sydney

    Edweirdo, the full attribution isn't compulsory. Here's what CC has to say about it:

    I always include a link to the photographer but never the full CC link.

    Incidentally, I used the CC search a few times - it's important to mention the warning - "Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license"!

    You have to check each and every image personally. The search is only as reliable as the sources - Google Images is very unreliable and the images are often not CC licensed at all. That's why I go direct to Flickr instead - less hassle!

  • Randy Godwin profile image

    Randy Godwin 

    11 years ago from Southern Georgia

    Very important and informative hub, edweirdo! Thanks for the info.


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