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Libraries Research Guides

Finding and Using Image Resources

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright law exists to promote the creation of new, original material by protecting the rights and incentives of those who create content.

Original content is copyrighted at the instant it becomes fixed in a tangible medium. Creators no longer have to register a copyright to receive protection against unlawful use--it is automatic.

The doctrine of Fair Use, however, limits the exclusive rights of the copyright owner and makes reasonable public access to copyrighted works available for limited purposes. Determining what constitutes Fair Use in a specific situation can be difficult. Section 107 of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) specifies four factors that are balanced together when determining whether a use is Fair or not:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The following guidelines may be helpful:

  • Images found on the Internet (Google Images, et cetera) might not be placed there legally. Visit websites created specifically for public domain images (no longer protected by copyright) and Creative Commons images where permission for use is granted by rights owners (see Guide tab "Free Images for Educational Use").
  • Images from ARTstor and OhioLINK are legally available for campus educational use.
  • If you scan images from books and magazines, keep track of where you found the images. If you are going to use the same image every time you teach a course, it would be best to obtain a commercially-available image and the legal permission to use it.
  • Abide by rights owners' stated terms and conditions when you find images you would like to use.
  • Make use of tools to help you evaluate copyright status and likelihood of Fair Use. See "Resources" in the left column.



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