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LIBRARY: Copyright & Creative Commons

What can and can't you do?

Copyrighted Images: Don't Use Without Permission

Copyright is the legal protection extended to the authors or owners of original published and unpublished artistic and intellectual works. 

This means that it's illegal for anyone else to use the work in these ways without the author's permission. If you carry out any of these activities without permission, you are violating copyright law and may be subject to legal sanctions, including fines. To be safe, you should assume that most images you find online are copyrighted, even if they don’t have a copyright symbol (©) or legal text.

Some copyrighted images are openly licensed, such as those licensed through certain Creative Commons licenses. 

Permission Granted: When You Can Freely Use Images

In general, there are three instances in which you can borrow images/materials for your website without asking permission. and less of a hassle than tracking  But no matter what your source, it’s good policy to try to credit the artist when possible

  1. When the image is in the public domain.
    An image in the public domain has no legal owner. A work enters the public domain through a variety of ways: Either its copyright has expired, its copyright was never renewed, or the work has been dedicated to the public domain. Works whose copyright has expired are those that were published in the U.S. before 1923, or those that were published before 1964 whose copyright was not renewed.
     A notice that says "this work is dedicated to the public domain" is typically an indication that it is OK to republish without permission.
  2. When it has been designated "copyright-free."
    There are many online photo banks that advertise themselves as offering "copyright-free" images. While these images are generally safe to take, always read the terms and conditions before you use anything. Just because an image is free doesn't mean you can use it freely.
  3. When the image is openly licensed.
    An openly licensed image means that the copyright holder has decided to automatically grant certain reprint permissions. The most common form of openly licensing an image is to apply a Creative Commons license. These vary from fairly restrictive to very permissive. 

Source: Adapted from "finding and Using Images on the Web" URL:

Free Images: