CC Search: Finding Openly Licensed and Public Domain Images

  • Copyright "C" on a yellow background.

Have you ever had difficulty finding a digital image to use in a presentation, blog post, website, or other project that doesn’t infringe upon the image creator’s intellectual property rights? You’re in luck. Creative Commons recently launched a new tool called CC Search that allows users to search for over 300 million images that are either openly licensed or in the public domain, making them generally free to reuse. This search engine currently indexes, retrieves, and aggregates sets of images from across 22 repositories such as Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, Animal Diversity Web, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bēhance, and 3D designs from Thingiverse.

CC Search was created by Creative Commons, a nonprofit that helps creators “legally share [their] knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world” through CC licenses. These licenses give creators, both large and small, a standardized way to grant copyright permissions, allowing them to “forge a balance inside the traditional ‘all rights reserved’ setting that copyright law creates,” according to Creative Commons’ webpage on licensing considerations. CC licenses encourage the legal use, sharing, repurposing, and remixing of creative works. 

To learn more about how CC Search works, view the full list of image providers, and read the search engine’s disclaimer, see the CC Search About page.

For more on copyright, the public domain, and open innovation, check out Jenkins’ print copies of books such as Intellectual Property Deskbook for the Business Lawyer: A Transactions-Based Guide to Intellectual Property Law, which contains a chapter on the open-innovation movement (and refers to Creative Commons), or The Law and Business of Open Source Software 2018.

Jenkins also has several electronic titles by attorney and intellectual property author Stephen Fishman, including “Copyright and the Public Domain” (available via Law Journal Press), "Copyright Handbook," and "Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More" (available via the Patents, Copyright & Trademarks > Copyright category in Nolo).

You can find many additional titles by searching Jenkins’ catalog.


* "Copyright license choice" by is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Slight modifications were made for sizing.

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