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Finding and (Re)Using Digital Images and Media

Copyright & Permissions

The guidelines offered here should be taken as suggestions, not as legal statements.

Do I need permission?

The re-use of images for educational purposes (not including print or electronic publication of any kind) is generally considered acceptable under the terms of fair use. Protected websites only available to the campus community generally fall within the bounds of educational fair use, while publicly available websites may not.

If you wish to publish images in print or put them online publicly, even if for educational purposes, you will first need to determine whether or not the image is protected by copyright, then find out how to get copyright clearance.

When in doubt, consult the Cornell University Fair Use Checklist or the Fair Use Definition (U.S. Code TITLE 17, Chapter 1, Sec. 107).

Copyright? Fair Use?

Copyright law grants special rights to creators with regards to their intellectual property and creative works. Fair Use offers legal exemption to those rights on a case-by-case basis under certain circumstances. Explore the resources in the box below for further information.

What are online tools for figuring out copyright status and whether something falls under fair use?

Where can I go to get permission?

For work under copyright protection, you may need to obtain permission to publish from the institution that owns rights to the image in question, whether or not the image is in the public domain. In most cases, you will need to write to the institution that owns the physical image and request permission to publish it. There may be a fee associated with acquiring permission to publish.

Copyright Resources

Learn more about copyright and fair use

Creative Commons License

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons helps creators share their work. With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit -- and only on specified conditions (e.g. non-commercial, non-derivative, share-alike). Creative Commons "provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry." You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."