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Using Other Peoples' Work
There are many artists that appropriate other images as elements of their work. You may also want to use an image to prove a point in a paper or put it on your website. However, it's important to be careful and be aware of the laws governing image rights. Here are some resources that may help you figure out whether you can use an image or not:
Visual Resources Collection's List of Copyright Links
The VRC has a great list of resources about art & copyright issues. You may especially want to check out "Crash Course in Copyright."
Explanation of Fair Use
What is fair use? It's a confusing concept, but it means that there are exceptions to the rule that you must always have permission from the creator before you can use their work. If you are using it for purposes such as criticism, commentary, or scholarship, it may be okay--but there are exceptions, so reading this is a good idea.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Fair use in a digital environment can be even more confusing. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act deals with this and other online copyright-related issues.
Copyright Basics for Artists
This is the Artists' Rights Society's basic explanation of some elements of copyright--what it is, how long it lasts, etc.
ARTstor's Images for Academic Publishing
If you are just using an ARTstor image for a regular school paper, that's acceptable as long as it's for noncommercial, scholarly use. However, if you want to use an image that you found on ARTstor in an academic publication, you need to purchase the rights to do so. More information can be found by clicking the link.
Requesting Images from Museums (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Maybe you want to use an image from a specific museum. If so, it's a good idea to check out their website and find out what rules they have about using their images. You may have to pay a fee. Check out the Met's policy by clicking the link.
What is a Creative Commons License?
You may have seen, on Flickr or elsewhere, captions that say that an image is protected by the Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a type of copyright or licensing agreement between the creator of an image and everybody else on the Internet. If you look closely, the Creative Commons license that goes with an image will tell you exactly what you can and can't do with an image. There are four basic qualifications:
- Attribution: If the image says this or has a little person icon next to it, that means you can use the image if and only if you give credit to the original creator.
- Noncommercial: If the image says this or has a little dollar-sign-with-a-slash icon, you can use the image but you may not sell it or use it in any commercial way.
- No Derivative Works: If the image says this or has a little equals sign icon, you can use the image but you may not alter, modify, or change it in any way.
- Share Alike: If the image says this or has a little circular arrow icon, you can distribute derivative works of the image but only under the terms of the original licensing agreement. E.g. if the original image was Attribution + Noncommercial (by-nc), you must distribute your version as Attribution + Noncommercial.
These four factors can be combined in various ways. You can look at the official website of the Creative Commons to find out (much) more about this.