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Copyright: Finding & re-using Images & Media: Creative Commons & Fair Use


This Resource Guide outlines some of the basic rules-of-the-road for re-using pictures, video, and audio that you find on the internet. Thank you to Butler University on whose guide this is based.

Using Images & Media

  • Everything on the Internet is NOT free to reuse
    • Copyright protects digital items just as it does physical ones. However, in the digital environment it can be very difficult to see what copyright or license applies and even more difficult to track down a creator to ask for permission. So what can you do?
  • Use media with stated licenses
    • This includes Creative Commons and Public Domain; these works will be clearly labeled so that you understand what you need to do to edit or reuse them.
  • See if your situation qualifies as "Fair Use"
    • If you are using these materials in the classroom, as a student or instructor, your work may be subject to different guidelines. Remember, you will still need to provide citation information to give proper credit to your sources.
  • Create your own media
    • Thanks to technology, creating your own images and media is easier than ever before. 
  • Purchase the right to use items
    • There are many sites where you can pay to be able to use images, videos, etc. We recommend pursuing the other three options first!

More Information

Public Domain: Works that you can use in any way you want to. Most works enter the public domain once intellectual property laws expire, but some enter because creators wish for their work to be available without copyright law restrictions.

The Copyright Act gives the owner of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute their work. One exception to this exclusive right is called the fair use exceptionThe fair use exception permits the reproduction of a portion of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission, under certain circumstancesThis is a vitally important exception for education, as it enables students, scholars, and critics to use and reference copyrighted works in their own scholarship, teaching, and critiques.

Four factors are considered in all fair use evaluations. They are:

  • Purpose & character
  • Nature of the work
  • Amount
  • Effect 

Resources below can help you understand these factors and determine if your situation qualifies under Fair Use.

See the resources below for guidelines about specific formats or educational situations.

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Books on the (weirdly) facinating subject of Copyright