I want to use some images from the wikicommons in my thesis, some images state that 'Attribution is not legally required', but I understand that if I don't cite an image it's as if I'm claiming it as my own.

Let's say I want to use the google logo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_2015_logo.svg

This is the attribution mentioned: By Google Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do I just put that attribution under the image in the thesis?

Thank you!

  • 1
    It depends on what style you're using ... Feb 23, 2017 at 18:11
  • If it's on commons, it likely came from somewhere else. In this case, it came from Chromium.
    – Compass
    Feb 23, 2017 at 21:49
  • 1
    If your research is not about logos, you should consider again if you need to put the logo into your thesis. I would avoid it.
    – Roland
    Feb 24, 2017 at 8:01
  • I only used the google logo as an example here. I want to know how to properly cite any image from the wikimedia commons where in my thesis. Feb 25, 2017 at 13:46
  • 1
    This answer may be of interest: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/67209/…. As you surmise, you may want to mention the license you are using the image under in the caption, in addition to citing it. Feb 17, 2018 at 21:27

3 Answers 3


Even if its in the public domain its always good to cite where you get your information from, be that data, images, or whatever, even if its public domain

When I use images that are governed by a license (including public domain, and "fair use") I identify

  1. the source,
  2. the original author/photographer/painter/etc, and
  3. the specific license that governs its reuse.

Using thorough and accurate citations ensures that you've done everything that needed to give proper credit where credit is due.

It also allows the reader to verify that what you cite is really at the source you give, and is licensed for the use to which you put it.

It doesn't hurt to include in the source, links to the actual source, and to the license (say as defined by Wikipedia, or the specific source you used.


So for any normal image you would need to do a few things:

  1. Get permission to use the image from the copyright holder.
  2. Cite the source.
  3. Place text close to the image or as a footnote indicating copyright and permission to use.

You have probably come across such an example in your reading. With a Wikimedia commons image, there is a license that indicates how you must use it. See this link for detailed information on the licenses. From that link it seems that you don't need (1). To be a good honest researcher, I suggest you always do (2) (in this case it would be an electronic / web source) and with (3) indicate the license as a comment suggested.


The image you linked is a public domain one, because it's below threshold of originality. Therefore you don't need to cite nor acknowledge the source of the image.

However, the Google logo is protected as a trademark. You may need to acknowledge it by the trademark symbol or a disclaimer.

Furthermore, if you want to cite the origin of the image as a benefit to your readers, you should cite Chromium or Google as the original source (not Commons), as it's done in the Wikimedia Commons page for that file.

  • 1
    You may need to acknowledge it by the trademark symbol It's better not to: see academia.stackexchange.com/q/21521/958 (don't stop at the first answer). Jun 13, 2018 at 22:07
  • While this technically answers the question as currently written, it doesn't help me because I'm looking to use this image, which doesn't seem to be public domain or below the threshold of originality.
    – Pro Q
    May 20, 2019 at 5:46
  • The answer would be different for different images. If you want an answer about a different image, I suggest making a new question about it. However, Wikimedia Commons could have already the answer in commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/…
    – Pere
    May 20, 2019 at 10:16

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