Skip to main content

Copyright Information and Guidelines: Images

This guide for the Bentley University community presents information on copyright and provides guidance in evaluating the use of copyrighted material in higher education and scholarship.

Using Images for Classroom Instruction

Current technology has enabled the digitization and incorporation of images into multimedia projects with relative ease. Yet these images, whether phtographs, illustrations, or graphics, all remain subject to copyright law and any use must be evaluated in the same manner as other media. Permission is required for any use that does not fall within fair use.

To assist in determining if your proposed use complies with fair use and adheres to copyright law, featured below are selected guidelines and best practices that should help inform your decisions on what and how much to use.

Guidelines

The following are guidelines that are often cited as ideal tools with which to measure the use of images or visual elements in course-related instruction or scholarship. These guidelines both use the concepts of brevity, spontaneity and cumulative effect to illustrate what may or may not be a fair use. They suggest numerical limits as the minimum standards of educational fair use.

The following are the primary conditions outlined in both sets of guidelines that should be considered when using multimedia resources:
 

Permissible Uses

  1. Educators may incorporate portions of lawfully acquired copyrighted works when producing their own educational multimedia projects for their own teaching tools in support of curriculum-based instructional activities at educational institutions.

  2. Educators may use their educational multimedia projects created for educational purposes for a period of up to two years after the first instructional use with a class. Use beyond that time period, even for educational purposes, requires permission for each copyrighted portion incorporated in the production. 

  3. Emergency copying to replace purchased copies which for any reason are not available for an imminent performance provided purchased replacement copies shall be substituted in due course.

  4. The reproduction or incorporation of photographs and illustrations is more difficult to define with regard to fair use because fair use usually precludes the use of an entire work. Under these guidelines a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety but no more than 5 images by an artist or photographer may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project. When using photographs and illustrations from a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be reproduced or otherwise incorporated as part of an educational multimedia project.

 Prohibitions

  1. Copying to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.

  2. Copying for the purpose of performance, except as in permissible uses (1) above.

  3. Copying for the purpose of substituting for the purchase of a motion picture, except as in permissible uses (1) above.

  4. Copying without inclusion of the copyright notice which appears on the printed copy.

  5. Using multimedia Projects for non-educational or commercial purposes.

  6. Duplication and distribution of multimedia projects beyond classroom limitations.

 


 

Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use

 

Recently, a number of  organizations have published Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use that relate specifically to the educational use of images and visual elements. Below is one such code that addresses the specific research and pedagogical needs of visual literacy and should be consulted when appropriate and in concert with previously established guidelines to facilitate a thorough evaluation of the use of copyrighted multimedia content.

 

 

The following situational guidelines are excerpted from the above Statement of the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study and should be used in conjunction with classroom guidelines to inform decisions regarding the use of copyrighted media:

I. Preservation: Storing Images for Repeated Use in a Teaching Context; Transferring Images to New Formats

Principle: Preservation of such materials – as a means of facilitating teaching, research and study, and preserving the scholarly record – should generally be permissible as an exercise of educators’ fair use rights.

 

Suggestions: Educational users may be best positioned to assert fair use if they:

 

  • Make only that number of copies reasonably necessary to achieve the teaching and research needs of the institution or individual (as well as the associated needs in preserving that content for such purposes). Such copies can include copies that are readily accessible for teaching and research purposes, as well as those that may be placed in a “dark” – or typically inaccessible – archive.
  • Undertake good faith efforts to notify end users of the archive, preferably through click-through terms of use or other mechanisms, that copyrighted images in the archive are only being made available for the educational uses for which the archive was assembled. Although terms of use and similar mechanisms are not a requirement of fair use, such mechanisms are likely to be viewed by courts as an indication of an educational user’s good faith in asserting fair use.

II. Use of Images for Teaching Purposes

 

Principle: For the reasons described in this statement, the reproduction and use of images for teaching – whether in face-to-face teaching, non-synchronous teaching activities, or non-course related academic lectures – should be consistent with fair use.

 

Suggestions: Educational institutions and faculty reproducing, displaying, or providing access to, images for teaching purposes may be best positioned to rely on fair use if they:

 

  • Undertake good faith efforts when distributing images to individual users to notify those users – preferably in writing through click-through terms of use or similar mechanisms – that copyrighted images are being made available for teaching, study, and research only. Although terms of use are not a requirement of fair use, such mechanisms may indicate an educational user’s good faith in asserting fair use.
  • Consider employing access restrictions, to the extent that images are accessible through websites or other online resources that limit access to educational users. Although access restrictions are not a requirement of fair use, they may be useful as a means of demonstrating a good faith intention to limit use of the images to teaching, research and study.
  • Provide attributions to known copyright owners of the images (and any works depicted in the images). Although not legally required under fair use, such attributions may help demonstrate a user’s good faith in adhering to the broader scholarly traditions of providing citations when using others’ works.
  • Maintain the educational, not-for-profit context, to the extent that educational institutions or faculty members utilize third parties (such as image-sharing websites and image databases) as a means of providing access to those images.

 

III. Use of Images (both Large, High-Resolution Images and Thumbnails) on Course Websites and in Other Online Study Materials

 

Principle: To the extent that use of a specific image for teaching or research is a fair use, then placing those same images in course websites or in other interactive teaching media for the same purposes should also be fair. Such uses should be fair regardless of the media formats or resolution in which those materials appear. This is the case whether or not those materials remain within such sites or media on an ongoing basis, or on a shorter basis, so long as they continue to serve an educational or scholarly purpose.

 

Suggestions: Educational institutions or individual faculty members who are providing students and other individual users with direct access to copyrighted images through course websites or other electronic study materials may be best positioned to claim fair use if they:

  • Undertake good faith efforts when distributing images to individual users to notify those users – preferably in writing through click-through terms of use or similar mechanisms – that copyrighted images are being made available for teaching, study, and research only. Although terms of use are not a requirement of fair use, such mechanisms may indicate an educational user’s good faith in asserting fair use.
  • Consider employing access restrictions that limit access to educational users. Although access restrictions are not a requirement of fair use, they may be useful as a means of demonstrating a good faith intention to limit use of the images to teaching, research and study.
  • Provide attributions to known copyright owners of the images (and any works depicted in the images). Although not legally required under fair use, such attributions may help demonstrate a user’s good faith in adhering to the broader scholarly traditions of providing citations when using others’ works.
  • Maintain the educational, not-for-profit context, to the extent that educational institutions or faculty members utilize third parties (such as image-sharing websites and image databases) as a means of providing access to those images.

IV. Adaptations of Images for Teaching and Classroom Work by Students

 

Principle: Subject to specified conditions, adaptations of copyrighted images for purposes of study, research, and teaching – such as for course assignments – should fall within the doctrine of fair use. 

 

Suggestions: Educational users may be particularly well positioned to assert fair use in adapting copyrighted images if they:

  • Clearly use the work in a learning, research, or similar educational context. 
  • Consider employing access restrictions as noted in the third guideline above, to the extent that such adaptations are being distributed via course websites or similar online vehicles. Although not a requirement of fair use, such steps may demonstrate a good faith intention to limit use of the images to teaching, research and study 

  • Provide an indication of the educational context in accompanying descriptive materials, to the extent that adaptations are displayed beyond the classroom (e.g., in an end-of-semester exhibition).

Disclaimer

Please note that the above information is for reference purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is advisable to always conduct a Fair Use Analysis whenever there is a question regarding the lawful use of copyrighted material. If, after careful evaluation, it is determined that the use of particular material would violate copyright law, or if you need to purchase copyright permissions for such use, please contact Matthew Van Sleet at 781.891.2311 or mvansleet@bentley.edu.

Tools and Resources