Use of images in PowerPoints

Published on
September 6, 2023

It is easy to unintentionally infringe copyright when you use images in a PowerPoint. Our copyright expert provides tips to avoid copyright breaches.

When making a PowerPoint for a lecture, a conference or a presentation, you’ll probably use images. Images are any visual elements you add to your slides, such as graphs, tables, photos, drawings, etc.

Use of images – decorative vs. explanatory

You can use images in two different ways: decorative or explanatory.

Decorative images make your PowerPoint more engaging to your audience. But, they aren’t necessary to your story.

Explanatory images illustrate important concepts. They add something to your slides and your audience needs them to understand the concepts you’re discussing.

What is allowed?

When adding decorative images, always check the copyright status before you use them.

  • Copyright protected images: you must first obtain the permission of the copyright holder to use them.
  • Images under licenses (such as Creative Commons): you can use them according to the license terms.
  • Images from the public domain: you can use them without any constraints.

We advise you to use only images under CC licenses or from the public domain to avoid dealing with permission or (accidental) copyright infringement.

If your image is explanatory and the image is essential to your story, you can use any image even a copyright protected one as long as you properly cite and refer to the original work.

Where to find decorative images?

You can easily find decorative images to use in your PowerPoint. Check out our page on photographs and audiovisual work.

You can also use the image bank available in PowerPoint (insert> images > stock images). You’re allowed to use these images as they are, or you can modify them. You can export your PowerPoint to create slide handouts, workbooks, etc. You are not allowed to save these images to use them in other contexts than through the Office suite. 

Refer to the original source

Don’t forget to correctly refer to the images in your slides. You should at least link to the original source.