Free Media For Educational Projects

When in the privacy of the physical classroom, faculty can use a lot of material (images, video, music) that is copyright protected under the Fair Use laws. However, more and more faculty or students are required to take materials online. This may be in the form of an online lecture or a multimedia project. Either way, the rules change and you cannot use these protected items.  In addition, many people assume that anything online is free for them to use but that’s not the case.  When it comes to using images and music, as a general rule of thumb you should assume everything is protected under copyright unless you are sure it isn’t.  So what options are open to you and your students?

There are many places online that offer free, royalty-free, copyright-free media for you to use in an education situation.


  1. If you find an image online you can always contact the owner of the image and ask permission, however, finding the true owner of an image is often difficult. Therefore, if you find an image that you want to use or if you need an image for a particular project or presentation, often the librarians can help you find one you are allowed to use.  Our librarians are fabulous at finding almost anything.
  2. You can also search for images based on a Creative Commons license. This allows you to use the image based on the specifications outlined by the owner of the image. You can go to and search for images and music that are available through this licensing organization. These are not always the statement images that you may want but it’s a good starting point.
  3. You can do a search on Google for usable images, however this is definitive. We have instructions on how to do such a search on our TLT Tutorials blog at Given some of the items that come up in the search I’m not 100% confident in this method but it’s a great place to start.
  4. Lastly, there are websites that advertise free images for educational use, such as image companies, museums, galleries, the Federal Government (Library of Congress, Smithsonian, NASA) etc. Always try them. They are usually very willing to give access for education purposes. I did a quick search and here are a few sites that were delivered (note not all of these have been vetted this was just a quick search):


Music has very strict copyright protections.  If you are posting any of your media to a site such as YouTube you will receive a copyright infringement notification almost immediately upon posting if your video or lecture contains any copyright protected music whether you own it or not.  This happens often in student created media projects. Here are a few sites that contain free and usable music.

Regardless of what site or method you use to find media always read the fine print to make sure it’s free to use.  Feel free to share these resources with your students.  In addition, we have other free resources on our Copyright page.  If you have any questions please contact your Instructional Technologist or your favorite librarian.

Featured photo taken by Bradley Stabler and is available under Creative Commons licensing

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