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Announcing the CC Catalog API, Version 1.0


The Creative Commons Catalog Application Programming Interface (CC Catalog API) gives developers the ability to create custom applications that utilize CC Search, a rich collection of 330 million and counting openly licensed images. We have spent the last two years gathering this data from a diverse set of 28 sources, ranging from curated collections assembled by the Met Museum to user-generated content on Flickr. 

Integrating the API into your application will give your users access to the largest collection of openly licensed images ever released on the internet.

While the API has been publicly available for some time now, the release of CC Catalog API, Version 1.0 marks a new milestone in the stability and reliability of the tool and a guarantee that we will not change the existing interface without ample warning and a long sunset period. It’s also important to note that the API is open source and the code is available under the MIT license on GitHub

Applications of the CC Catalog API

One of the best ways to understand what capabilities can be enabled by the API is to look at already existing applications. For example, every time you visit CC Search and type something into the search box, your browser is talking directly to the API to fulfill your request!

CC Catalog API (screenshot)An exciting milestone for us was seeing Google Summer of Code participant Mayank Nader implement his excellent CC Search Browser Extension, which uses the API to put CC Search at your fingertips via your browser. Other community-built applications include the CC Search WordPress plugin by the Greek School Network and Curationist by the MHz Foundation.

We think there are ample opportunities to integrate the API into your own applications. For example, CC Search could be particularly useful for content management systems to help users find images they can use royalty-free. Another possible application is in image editing programs, which would give users easy access to images where derivative works are allowed.

How to use the CC Catalog API

The API is free to use and open to the public. Anybody can visit the API homepage and start making HTTP queries. Still, we strongly encourage you to follow the instructions for signing up for an API key, which will impose fewer restrictions on your use of the API and give us a way to increase your rate limit if needed. We may impose stricter rate limits on anonymous consumers in the future, but registered users will always have preferential access.

We’d love to hear any feedback you have about the API and about the applications you are building using it. Please email us at

Deprecation of the pre-release version of the API

If you have already started building on the API, that’s great! However, if you are making any calls without “v1” in the URL, you need to update your application to use the new version. Starting in July 2020, we will be sunsetting the pre-release version of the search API. The Version 1 release is largely compatible with the original pre-release version; see the release notes for a full list of breaking changes.

To stay up-to-date on the latest tech developments and resources, including new versions of the CC Catalog API, follow @cc_opensource on Twitter and visit the CC Open Source website!

As the nonprofit organization behind CC Search and the CC Catalog API, please consider donating to Creative Commons so that we can continue building the open access tools and platforms the world uses to share. Thank you! 

Posted 16 March 2020