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Copyright & Fair Use

This guide provides a general overview of copyright issues.

Multimedia & Copyright

Multimedia resources, such as photographs, podcasts, or YouTube videos, are subject to the same copyright laws as fine art or blockbuster movies.  This means that, even though it is easy to save and use digital versions of these materials, copyright should be considered for each use.  This page offers guidance for finding and using various kinds of multimedia.  For more information, please contact Kristina Dorsett (

If you find a piece of multimedia online that you would like to use, the most effective way to attain permission is to go directly to the creator.  If there is no creator mentioned, or it is impossible to know who owns the copyright, the multimedia is considered an "orphan work" and it can only be used if it meets the requirements for fair use outlined on the "Start Here" page.

Finding Licensable Multimedia

The type of multimedia you are looking for will usually determine where to find it.  Many sites offer "Royalty Free" access to multimedia, this is a great option when you have the budget to purchase access for public or professional uses.  "Royalty Free" does not mean "for free" - it means that after you purchase a license to use a work you don't need to pay royalties to the creator for subsequent uses.  Keep in mind that some free licenses, such as Creative Commons, have their own requirements that you must meet to use the work without infringing on the rights of the creator. 


  • Free Music Archive is a source for free and royalty free music.  Using Creative Commons licenses, FMA lets you search by keyword, genre, license type, and duration.  If you use songs from FMA, be sure to check the CC license for each track.  If you use CC licensed music incorrectly on platforms like YouTube your videos are at risk of being copyright claimed by the musician.  Always check the license and be sure that you are meeting each requirement.
  • Freesound is a source for audio snippets, samples, and sound effects that are released under CC licenses.  If you use sounds from Freesound, be sure to check the CC license for each file.  Always check the license and be sure that you are meeting each requirement.
  • ZapSplat is a source for free and royalty free sound effects.  They have a standard license for using their free sounds and they offer paid licenses if you don't want to meet the requirements of the standard license.
  • YouTube Audio Library contains "copyright safe" music and sound effects that can be used in YouTube videos and downloaded for use in other media.  The library is consistently updated and has many search features including mood.  Individual files may be protected by CC licenses, so each file should be reviewed before use.

Photographs & Illustrations

  • Widener University Photoshelter is the university repository for professional photos divided by campus.  These are all high resolution images and they are continuously updated.
  • Wikimedia Commons is one of the world's largest media repositories for free-use images and other media.  As of March 2021, the repository contains over 70 million free-to-use media files.  Each file has its own license information and should be reviewed before use.
  • Unsplash hosts beautiful, high-quality images that can freely be used with their standard license.  Attribution is not required, but it is appreciated.
  • Pixabay hosts photographs, illustrations, and videos that can freely be used with their standard license.  Like Unsplash, attribution is not required but is appreciated.
  • Flaticon provides access to over 5 Million vector icons and stickers.  Each has the option for a professional, royalty free purchase or for free through an attribution license.
  • Flickr hosts images that are uploaded by users.  Each image has its own license and should be reviewed separately.  You can use Flickr's search interface to search by CC license as shown below.

  • Google Images is a search engine that pulls images from all of the sources above, and pretty much every other indexed page on the World Wide Web.  The search interface has filters for usage rights that can be selected from the results interface as shown below.  The options refer to CC licenses, for more information go to the "Creative Commons" page.