Finding & Reusing Images

Images are protected according to the Swedish Copyright Act (URL:1960:729). To reuse an image, you need permission from the creator, unless the specific reuse is allowed according to exceptions stipulated in the copyright act or if there is a license that allows the reuse. 

According to the Swedish Copyright Act, artistic works, such as images, illustrations, photographs, and works of art automatically protected until 70 years have passed after the death of its creator. The law states that the creator has both a right to economic compensation, and a moral right to always be given credit if his/her work is used. If you wish to use a work that has been created by someone else in, for example your presentation, publication, or teaching session, please note that you often have an obligation to get the copyright holder’s permission first. The creator can choose to make their image available for reuse in different ways, for example by licensing it.

Depending on the type of work and what usage is intended, different rules may apply. For example, The Swedish Copyright Act makes certain allowances for scholarly texts. The right to cite applies to literary works (chapter 2 22 §), but not to works of art. However, works of art that have been made public may be reproduced in accordance with chapter 2 23 §, which specifically addresses reproductions made in scholarly works, critiques and newspapers/journals. 

Maps and some other works of a describing nature are not identified as illustrations or works of art according to the Swedish Copyright Law, instead they are considered literary works, see chapter 1, 1 § and can thereby be cited.

The Agreement with Bonus Copyright Access

Lund University has an agreement with the Reproduction Rights Organization Bonus Copyright Access which allows for certain reuse of published works without the need to seek permission, for education purposes within the higher education institution.

Agreement for Higher Education Institutions (PDF, opens in a new window)

Seek permission to reuse an image

If exceptions in the Copyright Act are not applicable for your intended reuse or if the image is not covered by a license or other agreement, you need to seek permission with all copyright owners in order to reuse the image. The permission may be sought in different ways.

  • If the creator is represented by a copyright organisation, such as the association Bildupphovsrätt (BUS), you can get the permission through them. If you get the permission through BUS, you always pay a royalty fee, see BUS price list. There is usually a similar set up  abroad and there are often agreements in place between the different national organisations.
  • If the creator is not represented by such an organisation you must contact him/her directly and ask for permission to reproduce their image. The creator always has the right to ask for compensation. In cases where the creator cannot be reached, or identified, this does not mean you have the right to reproduce the image.

Remember to:

  • describe the context and where the image will be published in your request.
  • get the permission in writing.
  • check if the image has more than one copyright owner. Please find more information below under Find the creator/copyright owner.

A letter template to use when asking for permission to reuse material is available at Stockholm University's website.

  • There may be one or more copyright owners to an image. Apart from the photographer/illustrator, there may be other copyright owners if, for example, the image is depicting a person or an object, or if someone other than the photographer arranged the motif (this person will then also hold copyright to the image). When it comes to pictures of works of art, the photographer and creator of the photographed piece, own the copyright. To reuse a portrait ordered by a private citizen requires consent from the client (and the person portrayed, should they be two different persons).
  • Who owns the copyright may also vary. If the image has been published in a journal, the publisher may own the economic rights, while the photographer/illustrator owns the moral rights to the image. If you are unsure, contact both the publisher and the creator.
  • Tricky to find? If a publisher has gone out of business, the rights may have been acquired by another company. If the creator is deceased, the publisher, or the creator’s previous place of work, may potentially have the contact details of his/her heirs. You are welcome to contact us if you are unsure of how to proceed.

    Find images that can be used without permission

    Images may be licensed under different terms and some allow free reuse. The licenses that allow reuse without the creator’s permission may be designed in different ways. Depending on the type of license, the image may be used freely without restrictions, or there may be some terms and conditions in place. As a general rule, attribution should always be given.

    One way of stipulating how an image may be reused is to mark it with a Creative Commons (CC) license. If the image is marked with such a license, you have the right to reuse the image in accordance with the stated license. There are six different CC licenses that allow for reuse under different terms and conditions. Some allow for free reuse as long as the attribution is provided, others stipulate certain restrictions. The restrictions can, for example, stipulate that only non-commercial use is allowed, or that the image may not be modified without permission. It is important to check which terms and conditions apply to the image that you wish to use. Find a description of all CC licensing types on Creative Commons website.

    Give attribution

    As a general rule, always attribute the creator of the work. If you are using a CC-licensed image, Creative Commons’ recommendations for attribution include providing the title and link to the image, the creator’s name and link to his/her username, the license and a link to said license.

    For more details, go to Best practices for attribution and Creative Commons’ FAQ on attributions

    Britannica Image Quest

    A database that includes millions of images, rights-cleared for educational use and private non-commercial use.

    Britannica Image Quest

    You may also find images in other databases that you have access to as a Lund University student or employee. Ask your subject librarian if you want some tips. Remember to check the terms of use for each image. If you are unsure, contact the library.


    CC Search

    Open online search and reuse tool in which you can search for images free for reuse.

    CC Search


    Contains objects and information from many museum and archive collections. You can find information about how the image may be reused under each image. It may be CC-licensed, be old enough to have entered the public domain, or still be protected by copyright.



    Provides access to a large collection of digitised objects from thousands of european archives, libraries, and museums. Information about the terms of reuse is easy to find under each image.



    Contains images with different licenses, incuding CC licenses. Innehåller bilder med olika licenser varav en del med Creative Commons (CC). Select a type of license under "Any license" to refine your search results.



    You can find images that are free to reuse in Google's Images by limiting your search results. Click "Tools">"Usage rights".


    Lund University Library’s digitised collections

    The images in the Lund University Library’s digitised collections are CC-licensed. Commercial use requires permission from the Lund University Library.

    The Lund University Library's image collections


    Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash

    All photos on Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash can be used for free for commercial and noncommercial use. On Pexels and Pixabay there are also videos with a Cc licence that allows free reuse. Pixabay and Unsplash also show a selection of professional photos that can be purchased.

    Wikimedia Commons

    A media file repository containing images, music and audio with Creative Commons licenses.

    Wikimedia Commons

    Find the right image with Google - Can I use this Image?

    Video from Karolinska Institutet

    Page Manager: webbadminhtbibl.luse | 2023-09-08