Skip to Main Content

Library Image Resources

Instructions and sources for finding images to use in courses and student presentations

What Can You Use?

When It's Under Copyright: Fair Use

  • If an image is under copyright, this generally means that it cannot be reproduced without the express written permission of the creator/owner except in specific "fair use" circumstances. Outside of those circumstances, this will typically involve paying a fee.
  • Fair use means that in most cases, you do not have to get written permission if you are teaching or creating a presentation for class, as long as you cite the image properly and give the owner credit.
  • Note that fair use does not apply to using images in publications, even in some cases for posting images online.

When Its License is not Covered By Copyright: Creative Commons Licenses and the Public Domain

  • If an image is under a  Creative Commons license, it means that the owner allows others to reuse it, given certain criteria. Not all Creative Commons licenses are the same, so when you reuse or reproduce an image under Creative Commons, always be sure to check the license requirements.
  • If an image is in the public domain, it either means that the copyright on the image has expired, or that it was produced by the government. See Copyright Term & Public Domain for more information about types of works and requirements in the United States.
  • Many of the open resources on this guide include both types of images - seek out licensing information for each image to be sure.

For information on how to find images that are not under copyright ("Open images"), see Find Open Images on this guide. 

Can I Use That Picture?

Digital Image Rights Computator

Points to Keep in Mind

  1. Assume it's Protected & Investigate Every Time
    1. Most of the images in this guide are in the Public Domain, covered under Creative Commons licenses, or explicitly allow educational use
  2. Seek Out & Read Usage Agreements & Ownership Notes
    1. These may be different for each image on a particular website, especially on a government site
    2. Follow the rules they state
  3. When in Doubt, Get Permission
    1. If you can't find out by looking at the site, contact the listed owner
    2. If you can't find the owner, don't use it if you have the SLIGHTEST question about whether your use falls under Fair Use/li>
  4. Cite the Image Every Time!
    1. You must always cite images appropriately

Special Cases: Scholarly Publication

Most resources consider scholarly publication a commercial use and forbid it without special permissions.

However: A growing number of Museum & Art sources make an exception and allow free use of their images for scholarly books and journal articles:

See each site for information about limits and procedures.