Copyright and Images / visual works
Copyright law protects images as stand-alone artistic works and that covers any work in a visual medium. This includes:
- paintings, drawings, sketches, book jackets, magazine covers, illustrations, cartoons, engravings;
- digital images, graphical images, screenshots, multi-media art, some 3D printed works;
- maps, surveys, land use plans; architectural plans; designs
- charts, figures, graphs;
- photographs, movie stills;
- sculptures, architectural models and other artistic works of craftsmanship;
- and more….
How can I use images without breaking copyright?
Are you the copyright holder of the image?
- If you are the copyright holder, you can use the image as you wish.
- When you create your own, original images you usually own the copyright.
- The image you create has to be original. It is not enough to make a direct copy.
- If you make the image as part of your job, you may not own the copyright.
Is the image in the Public Domain?
- Copyright is temporary – once the term of copyright protection is over, works belong to the public domain. This means they can be used without requiring permission or payment.
- Usually copyright lasts for 50 years after the death of the creator.
- It isn’t always easy to identify if something is in the public domain. Photographs are particularly convoluted. This Canadian Public Domain flowchart is helpful, but email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help.
- Fine arts images can be difficult – Museums and artists’ estates may charge high fees to provide a high-resolution digital image of works in their collections even if they are in the pubic domain. Read Permissions: a Survival Guide or contact copyright@Carleton.ca if you need more information about this phenomenon.
Is the image covered by a license that allows my use?
- Image copyright holders may allow people to use their images under certain conditions described in a license.
- Creative Commons Licenses, and Wikimedia licenses are examples that allow use without permissions or cost. Other websites will offer licenses for a fee, and often with other limitations as to their use.
- Carleton library subscribes to many databases that allow students and faculty to use images for educational purposes.
- Government of Canada allows use of many of its publications and images under a license that allows for personal or non-commercial use.
- United States government publications are all in the public domain.
Exceptions in the Copyright Act
- There are a number of exceptions in the copyright including Fair Dealing that allow the use of images or other copyrighted materials without asking permission under certain circumstances.
- For details on how these exceptions relate to teaching see: https://library.carleton.ca/copyright-carleton
Copyright, Fair Dealing, and Images
This resource provides a set of guidelines for students using and creating visual materials. It is not meant to be legal advice.
What is copyright?
Copyright is the legal means through which creators control the use and reproduction of their intellectual and artistic works. The Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42) governs copyright in Canada and, like other copyright acts and agreements, its aim is to protect the economic and moral rights of creators while providing reasonable access to their created works in support of culture and to benefit society as a whole.
What rights are granted through copyright?
Economic rights: Copyright grants creators the economic right to benefit financially from the exploitation of their works by either selling access to their work (i.e. licensing) or by selling their rights to the work itself.
Copyright owners have the sole right to authorize others to exercise any of his or her rights. Therefore, copyright protects authors’ works from being copied, performed, communicated to the public, adapted or translated, or distributed without the permission of the copyright holder.
Moral rights: Along with copyright, authors also have moral rights that are meant to protect their personality or reputation and the integrity of their work. Depending on a country’s copyright laws, moral rights allow creators to require attribution and restrict certain changes to and uses of their work.
The moral rights of a creator can include the right of attribution (to be acknowledged as the author of a work or to choose to remain anonymous), the right to control associations with the work (for example, a product, cause or institution), and the right to protect the integrity of a work (to prevent modifications which may damage one’s reputation).
What types of images are protected?
Images fall under the blanket term artistic works in the Canadian Copyright Act, which includes paintings, drawings, maps, charts, plans, photographs, engravings, works of artistic craftsmanship, and compilations of artistic works (sculptures and architectural works are also included under artistic works).
- Photographs are further delineated to include photo-lithographs and any work expressed by a process analogous to photography (therefore open to technologies as yet unknown). Please note that photographs can have different rules of ownership and various copyright durations.
- Engravings include etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, prints, and other similar works not considered photographs.
Copyright protection is automatically provided for the types of works listed above; therefore, when using images begin by assuming that all images may be protected by copyright. It is your responsibility to use images ethically with an awareness of possible copyright restrictions.
What is the Fair Dealing Exception?
Fair Dealing is an exception in the Canadian Copyright Act that permits the use of other people’s copyright protected work without permission or payment for the purpose of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting. If your use is for one of these purposes you must make a fair dealing analysis. The six factors that are used to determine fairness are:
- The purpose of the dealing: Is it for commercial, educational or charitable purposes?
- The character of the dealing: Are you making multiple copies; is it going to be widely distributed? Are you making a single copy; will it be of limited distribution?
- The amount of the dealing: Are you copying an entire work or a significant portion? Is the copy of a limited amount of the work, or a minimal portion?
- The nature of the work: Is it for inclusion in a confidential work? Is it going to remain unpublished? Is it included in a work of relevance to the public interest?
- The availability of alternatives to the dealing: Are their other options available for use or is this the only resource available and it is deemed an essential part?
- The effect of the dealing on the work: Will your work compete with the market for the original work? Will it have no effect on the original’s market value?
Fair dealing is deliberately ambiguous and no single factor is decisive by itself. The reasonable use of copyright protected work does not necessarily have to satisfy each factor in order to be considered fair dealing.
Please note: If you are using a work for the purposes of review, news reporting, or criticism, under the fair dealing provision you must cite your source and the author’s name (if given in the source).1
1. This section on fair dealing was adapted from Simon Fraser University’s “What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?” From Copyright at SFU, accessed on April 16, 2016, http://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/academic-integrity/copyright/fair-dealing. This content on the Simon Fraser University website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Additional Resources for Fair Dealing:
Western University’s Fair Dealing Analysis
A very hepful tool created by Western University that offers an analysis that begins with two “tests.” The first considers the purpose for copying as articulated in the Copyright Act. The second test focuses on determining fairness as decided by the Supreme Court in its 2004 CCH v Law Society ruling.
Western University's Fair Dealing Exception Guidelines
General Resources for Canadian, U.S and International Copyright:
The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) - Copyright Law
This webpage outlines how the 2012 amendments affect the rights of photographers.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office: A Guide to Copyright
This guide explores what copyright is, the process for registering copyrights in Canada, and the benefits of registration.
Creative Commons Licenses and Images in the Public Domain
Fair dealing, an exception in the Copyright Act, allows for the use of copyright protected material for the purpose of education and research. However if the scope of your work goes beyond educational, you should select images that are appropriate for a broad variety of uses. Whenever possible choose images under less restrictive Creative Commons licenses or images that have entered the public domain. See Finding Creative Commons and Public Domain Images for search tips and resources.
Chris Barbara, Carleton University from the South, 2007, Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carleton_Uni2.jpg.
Image released into the public domain by author.
Creative Commons Licenses
Creative Commons Licenses provide creators with a set of conditions they can choose to apply to their work. These licenses are meant to be legal tools that help manage the copyright terms that attach automatically to all creative material. See Creative Commons: Frequently asked Questions for more details. Be aware that a Creative Commons license is a contract, so always be sure to read the terms and conditions of each license type.
- Attribution CC BY: This license allows you to distribute, alter, and build upon an image, even commercially, as long you credit the original. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
- Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA: This license allows you to use and alter an image even for commercial purposes, as long as you give credit and license your new work under the identical terms. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
- Attribution-Noderivs CC BY-ND: This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit given to the original creator.
- Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC: This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon an image non-commercially, and although your new work must also acknowledge the original creator and be non-commercial, you don’t have to license your derivative work on the same terms.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY NC-SA: This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon an image for non-commercial purposes, as long as you credit and license your new creation under identical terms.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY NC-ND: This license allows you to download images and share them as long as you credit the creator, but you can not alter them in any way or use them commercially. This is the most restrictive license offer by Creative Commons.1
Creators can also make their work freely available to the public without restriction by dedicating it to the public domain:
- Public Domain Dedication CC0: This symbol indicates that a creator has chosen to opt out of copyright and has dedicated their work to the public domain. You can freely use images accompanied by this symbol and, though attribution is not necessary, it is recommended that you properly cite a CC0 image if using it in your academic work.
Images in the Public Domain
Images in the public domain are not protected by copyright or by other legal means and are therefore free to use for any purpose. If an image is public domain it means that either its term of protection under copyright has expired, it was never eligible for protection in the first place, or that the creator has chosen to waive their copyright and has made their work freely and unconditionally available for use by the public. See Public Domain Sherpa: "Let's start at the beginning, with a definition of public domain" for a definition of the public domain and how to find out if a work is in the public domain.
- Public domain images do not require you to seek the permission of a creator, though you should always properly attribute these images so that others can find and reference them.
- Do not assume that an image without a copyright symbol or the term “all rights reserved” is in the public domain. Copyright is automatic so these indicators are not necessary for a work to be protected. Anyone can put a public domain notice on another person’s image so always investigate to ensure that this is indeed the case.
- Just because you find an image online does not mean that it’s free to use. Copyright is automatic in Canada so always assume any images you find are protected by copyright.
- Before using an image you find online, you should always determine its original source.
- The usage rights attached to an online image always determine the extent to which you can use it. Always check licensing and usage terms.
1. Descriptions of licenses adapted from the Creative Commons website “About the licenses” page, accessed November 4, 2016, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/. Content on the Creative Commons website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Educational Image Use and Fair Dealing: Tips and Guidelines
This resource provides a set of guidelines for students using and creating visual materials. It is not meant to be legal advice.
Remember: The fair dealing exemption does not apply if the image is commercially available on the Canadian market in a medium that is appropriate for the intended purpose, and can be acquired within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price.
Using Images within the Parameters of Fair Dealing
- Copying digital images, scanning, and screenshots
- Making a scan from a book, downloading a digital file from the web, or capturing online image content with a screenshot for use in your academic work falls within the limitations set out by the fair dealing exception when the number of copies remains limited and the use of the copies is strictly within the context of an educational institution. You may also use these copies if the images are covered by a license that allows for educational use or where no permission is required, such as a public domain work.
- Displaying and handing out images in class
- Under fair dealing educators and students can display a copyrighted image in the classroom or elsewhere on university premises for educational purposes. Copied images can also be included in a class hand-out. In both cases, you must adhere to the restrictions that may be copied under fair dealing. If for example, you wish to post multiple images from a book, you may do so as long as those images amount to no more than 10% of the book. Try and use as many different sources as possible for you materials. Remember: The extent to which you use an image is also a consideration. If you reuse a copyright protected image repeatedly in multiple and various course materials, you could be moving beyond the limits of fair dealing.
- Sharing images on a website and Brightspace
- Using images found online
- You can also chose to use low resolution images or thumbnails, which do not compete with the commercial interest of copyright owners, or link to images rather than posting them on a class website. Always ensure that the content to which you are linking is not itself in violation of copyright.
- Using images in presentations and posters
- As mentioned above, displaying images on university grounds and as part of course work is permissible under fair dealing, but always be mindful of the purpose and extent to which you use copyright protected work. If your presentation is going to be recorded and uploaded to YouTube or if your poster, which began as part of course work is adapted and used for non-educational or commercial purposes, you will need to reassess the images you have included to ensure that you are not in violation of copyright. You may need to seek permission from the creator/copyright holder or change the image to one that permits your intended use.
- Best practice is to always give credit to the author of an image and cite your source. If you are using multiple images in a presentation then include a final slide with thumbnails of every image used with proper attribution. See Customizing Image Credit Lines and Captions for guidance on how to cite images by project type. Remember: Explicitly citing an image source is not a replacement for obtaining copyright permission if it is required.
- Adding work that includes copyright protected images to open access repositories like Carleton’s CURVE
- If the extent to which you use a copyright protected image moves beyond fair dealing, for example the research paper you submitted through Brightspace as part of course work is going to be added to an open access institutional repository like Carleton’s CURVE, then you need to re-assess the images included to ensure that you will not be violating copyright.1
1. This section on educational image use was adapted from the University of Waterloo's "Frequently Asked Questions" from Copyright Guidelines, accessed March 20, 2016, https://uwaterloo.ca/copyright-guidelines/faq-page. This content on the University of Waterloo website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.
Additional Resources for Using Images in Academic Work:
College Art Association Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts
Similar to "fair dealing" in Canada, "fair use" is the U.S. legal doctrine that permits a limited use of copyright protected materials under certain conditions. This code provides a set of principles addressing best practices in the fair use of copyrighted materials. It describes how fair use can be invoked and implemented when using copyrighted materials in scholarship, teaching, museums, archives, and in the creation of art.
Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC)
The Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC) program is intended to assist the user in assessing the intellectual property status of a specific image documenting a work of art, a designed object, or a portion of the built environment.
Visual Resource Association Statement on the Fair Use of Images For Teaching Research and Study
This document describes the six uses of copyrighted still images that the Visual Resources Association (VRA) believes fall within the U.S. doctrine of fair use. The six uses are: (1) preservation; (2) the use of images for teaching purposes; (3) the use of images on course websites and in other online study materials; (4) adaptations of images for teaching and classroom work by students; (5) sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study; and (6) the reproduction of images in theses and dissertations.
University of Washington Libraries Ethical Image Use Checklist
This checklist will help you work through the ethical considerations and issues involved in using and producing images.