How to filter Google image searches by usage rights

Filter which images you can freely use for commercial or non-commercial purposes right on your search results page.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Looking for an image online that you can legally and safely use on your own Web site? Google now makes it easier to find one.

A new Usage Rights filter is now easily accessible on your search results page, as tweeted by Google software engineer Matt Cutts. Here's how you can tap into it:

  1. Run your search at the Google Images page, or just use Google's default search page and then filter the results by image.
  2. Click on the Search tools menu and then select the dropdown menu for Usage Rights. That menu offers five choices: Not filtered by license, Labeled for reuse, Labeled for commercial reuse, Labeled for reuse with modification, and Labeled for commercial reuse with modification. Select the option you wish to use, and the page refreshes to include only those images.

The images are typically ones licensed by Creative Commons or GNU Free Documentation, or are items in the public domain. The "labeled for reuse" option allows you to use the image for non-commercial purposes as specified in the license. The "labeled for commercial reuse" lets you use the image commercially. The "reuse with modification" option grants you the ability to alter the image.

A Google help page describes the various licensing and usage options.

Google has offered usage rights filtering for images since 2009 . But until now, you had to access the Advanced Image Search page to filter your results. The new feature also helps Google catch up with Bing, which has its own image licensing filter directly accessible from your search results.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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