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, but permissions on specific images should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- 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