For many questions it is helpful to include a photo or a map in the answer and we have seen many photos already.

So far I only uploaded my own photos and added a 'photo credit' link below.

There are already many photos without a source, where do they come from? Can we just use them? Can I just do an image search on Google, download the file and then upload it to this site? I guess not.

Same with maps, a snapshot of a Google or Bing map may be helpful, but I guess so far people just use links.

Maybe it would be helpful to include some 'best practices' in the FAQ.

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    In addition to my answer -- I think we can leave the old questions and answers as they are, and only edit them if they pop up for some reason and someone feels like finding a suitably licensed image/map. But for new questions, we should be a little bit more vigilant in what is allowed or not. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 12:23
  • @mindcorrosive and Peter Hahndorf: I realize I am a bit late for the party but I had this very same issue many times (for images) in my professional career (designing & building websites among other things) so I added some of the resources I have been using to find those images with Creative Common Licenses. This may be an answer to point to whenever a user adds an image with improper license. what do you think?
    – Adriano
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:14

3 Answers 3



Maps from OpenStreetMap are licensed under CC-BY-SA, and with appropriate attribution, they can be used freely. Note that the content of Stack Exchange sites use the same license, so they are completely compatible.

The situation with Google Maps is slightly more complicated. There are two applicable documents -- the Terms of Service and the Legal Notices. Take from these what you will.

I will study these in more details later on, but from a cursory analysis it seems to be okay to include an occasional screenshot of the map. The usual IANAL disclaimer applies.


For images, the best place seems to be CC Search, which incorporates a few other databases with appropriately licensed content, including Google, Flickr and Wikimedia content. One should comply with the license conditions, mostly related to attribution, when using these images.

All being said, in this case the maxim "It's easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission" is a good policy. It's easy to argue that usage of images, even copyrighted, are not used for commercial purposes -- Stack Exchange sites do not generate revenue of any sort from the site itself, nor do they charge for their usage. Besides, the DMCA takedown procedure provides Stack Exchange Inc. with a "safe harbour" against copyright infringement claims, and if a copyright holder complains that their content is used inappropriately, Stack Exchange can remove the content in accordance with the claim (if it is deemed valid, of course), and not be a subject to further liability.

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    But even with most Creative Common licenses, you need to attribute back to the owner, so there should be a link back to the source, right? Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 12:46
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    @PeterHahndorf: Absolutely -- a hyperlink back, and citing the name of the author/source should be sufficient. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 12:47
  • OpenStreetMap copyright page says now in 2015: You are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt our data, as long as you credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors. [...] We require that you use the credit “© OpenStreetMap contributors”. linking to this copyright page. I just did that to a question I created a few days ago travel.stackexchange.com/questions/51248/…
    – Adriano
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:45

Personally I've only been uploading photos I've taken myself or found on Wikipedia or one of its sister sites. Generally I hunt around on Wikimedia Commons.

For maps I only post links, not screen grabs.

At least once I posted a link to a page that contained a photo I wanted to use but didn't want to include in my post because it's too hard to know the copyright rules and I play it safe.

  • +1 for trying to upload photos that you took yourself
    – Adriano
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 8:38

Resources for Creative Common Licenses images

My answer focuses only on resources for finding images with Creative Common Licenses. This is because as mindcorrosive indicated (& explained) in his answer, OpenStreetMap is a great fit for including a picture/screenshot of a map.

Related articles

graphicdesign.stackexchange: How to prove an image has been released under Creative Commons?

globaldigitalcitizen.org: 15 Best Sites for Open Source Images

sitepoint.com: 5 Sites For Fantastic Creative Commons Design Resources

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