Fair Use, Attribution, and Microsoft Clip Art

Question: When y'all use images (or other media) from the Microsoft Clip Art Gallery:

1. Is it legal?

2. If so, should it contain an attribution?

3. If so, how should it be stated?

My questions are merely about USE, not resale, not modification, just simple use. Also, not just for using these in Articulate products, but also for blog posts and other elearning.

Apologies for the length of this post and if it all seems transparent to everyone else. And TIA for the help deciphering what is for me legalese.


I should let y'all know that I'm informed enough about Fair Use and copyright to know to go to  vendors/providers and inquire what their policy is. To that end, I've visited 3 Microsoft web sites, engaged in a Microsoft chat session (useless), and made 2 phone calls to Microsoft.

  • The rep on the first call (number provided by chat agent) told me he couldn't answer that question, but that I should call the legal department.
  • I called that number and made a choice from the menu. I was referred back to the web sites I've been reading and attempting to decipher.
  • I called the number again and made another choice from the menu and was referred back to the first phone number.

And no, I'm not kidding.

Use of Microsoft copyrighted content

At the top of this page there's info indicating it's necessary to use the the full name of a product and you must include this statement, "Used with permission from Microsoft".

I know this needs to be done when writing about their software, but is this also true when using their clip art and media?

There's a link to this info in the document (further down)

The Clip Art and Media gallery provides a compilation of artwork. See the use terms for the description of permitted uses. If those terms do not meet your needs, our Clip Art partners at Office Online provide a variety of images you can license directly.

Also, there's a link to

Find End-User License Terms for Microsoft products.

And in there (as well as here #17) is this paragraph, italics is mine:

Media Elements and Templates. You may have access to media images, clip art, animations, sounds, music, video clips, templates and other forms of content (“media elements”) provided with the software or as part of a service associated with the software. You may copy and use the media elements in projects and documents. You may not (i) sell, license or distribute copies of the media elements by themselves or as a product if the primary value of the product is the media elements; (ii) grant your customers rights to further license or distribute the media elements; (iii) license or distribute for commercial purposes media elements that include the representation of identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks, or emblems or use these types of images in ways that could imply an endorsement or association with your product, entity or activity; or (iv) create obscene or scandalous works using the media elements. For more information, go to www.microsoft.com/permission.

So, it looks to me like it can be used for Articulate, other elearning, and blogging, yes? And this includes ALL media at the Office Gallery, even that  provided  at that site by, for example, iStockphoto and Fotolia.

Finally, what precipitated my digging so deeply was an article I came across via a tweet this past weekend, where someone had been brought to court after posting someone else's photo (not Microsoft's) on a blog after doing a Google search on images. I blogged about that situation here www.refco27.com

I'm probably being a bit obsessive about this...but I'm really trying to do the right thing and to set the right example.

If you read through this, thank you so very much!

6 Replies
Steve Flowers

I interpret the license terms as:

1) You can't extract the images and resell them in a library.

2) Your customers can't redistribute the objects / media individually or as part of a library

3) You can't use identifiable individuals, governments, logos, trademarks or emblems in commercial products or as part of your own logo

4) You can't use it in scandalous stuff (porn).

By that definition, you should be OK using the clipart to produce assemblies of media using Microsoft's tools for a variety of purposes. If that wasn't the intent of use, I would expect to see a warning indicating that the media / clipart cannot be used for specific purposes. 

There are two types of licenses for Microsoft products. One is commercial and many companies use these tools for commercial purposes. I could be wrong, but I think the clipart and media are included as a value add and the intent is that folks will use it for a variety of purposes in their communication products.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Amazingly clear as mud! She came up with all the same links (and ... ahem ... gibberish) that I'd referenced.

I'm not sure what she's referring to here.

A quick way to tell if it's online or offline content is in the clip art task bar on the right hand side of your screen (when you select insert/picture/clip art).  If there is a globe on the left hand corner of the image, it's an image from the online gallery and if there is no globe it's an image from the offline office.

For example, I"m now in PowerPoint 2010. I've selected Insert >Clip Art and am searching for photos of dogs. I don't see any globes in the left hand corner of any images. I CAN see who the image was provided by, e.g., Microsoft, Fotolia, iStockphoto. This is what I was referring to before when I asked about images that are in the Microsoft gallery but provided by other vendors.

Also, if you CAN ever determine which pieces are online and available for commercial use, and which are offline and therefore only available for noncommercial use (and I'm still not clear on how to do that), would that mean a blog, which is typically provided for free, is noncommercial (even though you may in the end ratchet up some business via it), but creating elearning for a client and therefore earning money from it is commercial use?

I wish a Microsoftie would weigh in here and explain it all.

Ah for transparency....