A recent project had to have quite a few screens redesigned which had used mug shots of various celebrities to represent different qualities (in a way flattering to the celebs, but that's not the point.)


It was deemed as too risky to proceed and too expensive and complicated to get licencing/permission.


Has anyone else come up against this and if so did they find any workable solutions or compromises?

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Hi Norman,


It may seem like a bit of a work around and I might just be having a 'Friday moment' but depending on the extent you wish to use them you could try a lookalike agencies?


A straight forward way would be to get some caricatures made of the celebrities.



Hah! I never thought of caricatures or lookalikes!  Does that avoid the IP issues? I guess it might. I like your Friday moments!

Glad I could help :)

I suppose it would avoid the IP issue there's still a copyright issue depending on where the content is taken from, but worth putting in a call to the agencies if you want to go down the look-a-like route. I can't imagine they have much say over caricatures.

Hi Norm

I guess it depends to some degree whether you (or your employer) are aiming to make money out of it or whether you're in HE/FE/charity, etc.

You could investigate the creative commons route.

It astonishes me how many people still use the image of General Kitchener ('I want you') when they could much better use their CEO, or Robbie Williams, or whoever, with a pointing hand photoshopped in.

Similarly the numbers who are now using the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster.

Where's all the creativity?!


Hi Norman,

I've never used a celebrity in an elearning module, but I've been involved in producing various internal videos that used celebs. We did one with Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little played characters that were similar to their characters in the Royle Family. The result was amusing, but very poorly timed as we were in the middle of redundancies at the time and people wanted to know why we were wasting money on producing stuff like that. The video was withdrawn, heads rolled...

The look alike suggestion may be the easiest route. We took a similar approach with getting a 'sound-alike' to sing RESPECT which was way cheaper to licence than the original song. 



Hi Norman,

I know you're looking mainly for celebrity images however here's an article published by wired.com in July of last year.



It outlines guidelines for the use of wired.com imagery and includes a link to their public Flickr stream where a substantial catalogue (mostly technology based as you'd expect however there are images of Steve Jobs in there, and Ryan Seacrest who I'm almost ashamed to say I've heard of too (I'm blaming the missus for this obviously)). I include this link for your convenience and hope this helps, if not now then at some point in the future.






Thanks very much for the tip about Wired, Dougie.  Sorry for taking to long to reply. I'm guessing that internal training material might not count as 'commercial use', but I might drop them a line to check.

I guess in Sky it's not such an issue as you own your own images and footage.

Cheers again for the info, it's really helpful.

In terms of using celebrities in general, I think it works well. In an e-learning piece we did for Sky News we used the example of a story relating to Michael Jackson to get journalists to think about what makes a great news story intro. This worked really well. In my view, featuring such a well known celebrity helps bring this to life and provide a strong visual and emotional reference for learners. I, for one, enjoy learning that is visually stimulating and evokes some kind of emotional response so I say go for it.



Hi Norman

Have you tried approaching the artists' agents yourself and speaking to them directly (the agent, not the artist!)? There are occasions when you might be able to get a publicity shot to use for educational purposes for less than you think - you'd be surprised how far a bit of negotiation can get you.

Some of the royalty free image libraries, like Shutterstock and Getty provide celebrity images.

As Dougie has already advised, it is definitely worth trying to find the images you need from Creative Commons repositories.

Also, in terms of learning about copyright, the copyright toolkit website explains copyright in very accessible ways:


I hope this helps.




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