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Google search by usage rights

It just got a lot easier for students to find copyright-friendly content using Google Image Search.

Here’s how:

After entering a search term, click on Search Tools.  A pull-down menu appears offering a variety of options: not filtered by license, labeled for reuse, labeled for commercial reuse, labeled for reuse with modification, labeled for commercial reuse with modification.













This tweet from Google’s Matt Cutts attributes the request for improvement to Creative Commons founding board member and open culture hero,  Lawrence Lessig.

Now you can slice/dice Google image searches by usage rights under “Search tools. Thanks to @lessig for the request! — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) January 14, 2014

In the past, we had to lead students to the little gear that appeared after a search, offering hidden access to Google’s Advanced Image Search.  Once there, students had to scroll to the very bottom to find the elusive Usage Rights filter.

Only the most intrepid searchers would bother.

(Here’s what that old way looked like.)

It’s pretty fabulous, and about time that the process is easier in Google.

And, here are several other copyright-friendly image search options:

Mostly Public Domain (historical)

And here’s the Copyright-friendly Toolkit Smore I use in instruction.

Note: Last summer, Bing introduced a pull-down to make it easier to sort results by usage rights.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. You did not mention how you get to the Google page that has all the options (web, images, shopping, more). When I am not signed in and just go to Google’s image or web search, the options are not listed. Even when I sign in, I don’t see these options. I know how to find the old advanced image search page, but the screen shot you posted is not like mine at all! What am I doing wrong?

    • Lightningbug says

      I wondered myself at first. The important phrase is “After entering a search term,” and it looks like this is only for images. So do a Google Image search and THEN look up top for the filters.

  2. This is great. I’m looking to potentially use space in one of our computer labs. This would be great for the junior high level in aiding in research.


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