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Copyright: for learning, teaching, and research

This guide introduces key concepts of copyright relevant to those both studying and working at the University of Essex.


This guide has been adapted from Copyright guidance created at the University of Kent. Morrison, Chris and Groth-Seary, Angela (2020) University of Kent Copyright Guidance. University of Kent, Kent, UK. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.92664).

The 2022 version of this guide is available in Word Document and PDF formats at:

Finding and sharing content online

If you copy or upload content from the internet, make sure you address any copyright issues. This page provides guidance about sharing content responsibly online. It also links to free resources that allow you to use other people's works legally and responsibly.

Free open resources

Lots of sites provide free access to images and other content you might find useful. Here's a list of resources that are free of charge and have permissive free reuse rights.

  • Creative Commons Search: search for Creative Commons licensed content across a number of sites
  • Europeana: search for digitised content from Europe’s cultural heritage institutions.
  • Flickr: a photo community site that allows you to search for images according to Creative Commons licence. If you find a photo you want to use. make sure you have permission and always provide a credit.
  • The Noun Project: free community created icons.
  • OER Commons: public digital library of open educational resources.
  • Unsplash: high resolution images available under a free reuse licence.
  • VADS: the online resource for visual arts: digital images available for use in learning, teaching and research in the UK.
  • Wikimedia Commons: a collection of Creative Commons licensed and Public Domain (out of copyright) images and media.

Information on finding and sharing content online

Stock image libraries: Some stock image libraries allow use of their content free of charge for personal use. However, most commercial stock image libraries don't allow you to use their content professionally unless you have a licence or are prepared to pay a fee. 

Use of images for web content: If you're creating web content, generally you should make sure any content you use is creative commons licensed, or is copyright University of Essex. The list of free open resources above gives some suggestions of where to look for free resources.

Social media: If you're sharing other people's work on social media, make sure you either have permission, or that your use is covered by a copyright exception. See below for further copyright considerations when using social media.

Copyright and social media

Using social media, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or other platforms, requires the consideration of copyright. Some important points to be aware of are:

  • When uploading content you have created to social media, you keep your copyright. However, you also agree to license your content to be hosted and used in the specific ways set out in the terms and conditions of that platform.
  • It's always a good idea to check the terms and conditions of any social media site you sign up to.
  • Check the site you are using for information on copyright. If this information isn't easily found, don't just assume that copyright doesn't exist.
  • You should not upload anything to social media that you don't own the copyright to, unless you have permission from the rightsholder.
  • Even where legally downloaded, copyright material should not be emailed or transferred to anyone else, particularly via social media.
  • Be aware of any reposting of your own content on other people's sites. If this does happen without your permission, you are able to ask the infringing owner to remove your material.
  • No social media site will be held responsible for any legal consequences that may occur as a result of you uploading content that is unlawful.

Remember that all material on the internet is protected by copyright, however being aware of the different licences and exceptions can help you to ensure you are reusing material in a copyright compliant way.

Information on Copyright and Social Media based upon the University of Manchester Library: 

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.