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Images: Finding and Using Images for Research and Instruction: Copyright and Citing Images

A guide to finding images for classroom, Internet, publication, and presentation use, including links to sites with information about legal issues in using images.

Digital Dissertations and Theses

Digital dissertations and theses, as well as ePorftolios, can have special copyright concerns, because they are often freely accessible on the internet. Carefully review the requirements of the BGSU Graduate College and the OhioLINK ETD, as well as the copyright restrictions on any images before digitally publishing your dissertation.

What is Copyright?

United States copyright law is contained within Title 17 of the United States Code. Copyright protection applies to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression" (recorded, saved to a hard drive, written down, etc.). The law specifies eight protected categories:

  • literary works;
  • musical works, including any accompanying words;
  • dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  • pantomimes and choreographic works;
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
  • motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • sound recordings; and
  • architectural works.

The law also grants exclusive rights to copyright holders (Section 106). You've likely heard these referred to as a bundle of rights. They include the rights to:

  • reproduce the work;
  • prepare derivative works;
  • distribute copies of the work;
  • perform the copyrighted work publicly;
  • display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  • perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Fair Use

While copyright holders have exclusive rights to determine how their works are reproduced, distributed, displayed, and performed, there are exceptions to those rights in the law. One major exception is the doctrine of fair use (Section 107).

Individuals who'd like to use a copyrighted work for "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research" can use the following four factors to determine if their proposed use favors fair use or warrants permission from the copyright holder:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Citing Images

As with any work of intellectual property, you should identify your sources for images.  Consult your preferred citation style manual (APA, MLA, etc.) for examples and as a guide for your citation.

Image-Specific Copyright