One of the nice benefits of having Microsoft Office is that you get access to tons of royalty-free stock photographs, illustrations, animations and clip art to enhance your Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.

These images can be accessed directly from any of the Microsoft Office programs or you may download them online from the Microsoft Office website at office.com.

Office Images and Clip Art

Office Clip Art & Images - Permitted Usage

An oft-asked question is can you use these photos and clip art files outside Microsoft Office for a commercial or non-commercial project?

For instance, would it be legal to use the Office images on a public web page – say for the purpose of illustrating a blog post? Can you modify or annotate an image found on Office.com? Or can you use them in a printed technical manual or as the cover image of an ebook?

The Microsoft Office license agreement and the services agreement include details around legitimate usage:

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 works using the media elements.

The support site for Microsoft Office uses the phrase “unrestricted usage” and says that “you can use any image in the Office Clip Art and Media Library without restriction, except if the image becomes a product for sale.” The Clip Organizer manual requires that Microsoft Office users include a valid copyright notice on products that includes clip art and photos used from the Office Media library.

The Gist – Can I Use Office Images Commercially?

I am no legal expert but the language of these agreements does seem to indicate that you can use the Microsoft Office clip art and images for any purpose, including commercial projects, as long as you are not redistributing or reselling the clip art and image files as a stand-along product.

The online Office media gallery also sources images and clip art from external websites like iStockPhoto and Fotolia. The Office license may or may not cover the usage rights of these media files.

Also see: Can I use an Image from the Internet