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Copyright

Special Considerations - Images

Making use of images, other than those you have created yourself, is not as complex as video or music, but it can present some additional challenges nevertheless.  

When thinking about reusing an image in your work, consider:

  • Although images seem to be everywhere, especially online, the ubiquity of images in social media and all across the internet gives a false impression about their use and reuse.  Just because something is posted "publicly" does not mean it is in the public domain.  Most images you see online actually are protected by copyright.
  • It is often particularly hard to figure out who owns the copyright to an image, making contacting for permission nearly impossible.  
  • For photographs, there may be additional rights or restrictions on reuse based on the subject of the photograph.
    • People in photographs are entitled to rights of privacy, and for famous people, rights of publicity.
    • The architecture seen in a photograph can also be protected by its own copyright, for more recent architectural works. 
    • Artwork in photographs can also have its own copyright.   Although note that court cases have indicated that a photograph of a work of art that is now in the public domain does not have a copyright of its own because the photograph does not have the necessary component of originality & creativity.
  • It's unusual to want to use a small part of an image, such that reusing an image is nearly always copying the whole work.  This factors negatively in any fair use assessment.  Note that to some extent using a low resolution and small size image (i.e. thumbnail) rather than the original is an improvement on this score.
  • There are many resources for finding public domain or creative commons licensed images that can serve as good alternatives so in most cases it's best to start there rather than struggle.  For information on finding images you can safely reuse, see our Legal Sources for Multimedia Projects: Images guide.

Persons uploading content and graphics to a Mount Holyoke webpage are responsible for ensuring that copyrights are respected.  See the Mount Holyoke College Web Policy on Copyright for further information.

For more information about images and copyright, see Ohio State University's document "Using Images: Copyright Guidelines for Using Images in Education".

 

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