Following Copyright Law on the Web

A recent article I read on provides some great instruction for those using graphics pulled from the internet. Today, there are many rules and regulations, but hopefully this post will help to decipher the puzzle.

 What is Copyright?

It is the legal protection provided to authors and owners of originally created work whether it is artwork or intellectual work.

How do you know if an image is copyrighted?

It is better to be safe than sorry, so most of the time it is recommended to assume images are copyrighted. An obvious giveaway for a copyrighted image is the “c” trademark featured above. If such copyrighted images are used without the author’s permission, fines and penalties can be given.

As for finding non-copyrighted images, a good resource is the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons provides images that can be used with certain conditions specified by the author.

Using images without permission

The three exceptions to not asking permission before using an image:

  • When the image is found in the public domain
  • When the image is specified as “copyright free”
  • When the image is “openly licensed”

What is considered to be public domain?

If an image is considered in the public domain, it means that users have unlimited access and restrictions for using the works without infringing on copyright laws.

Here are the 3 categories of public domain works:

  • Works that are not copyrightable and enter this domain when created, such as ideas, facts, titles, slogans, government documents, and many more
  • Works that categorized as public domain by the author
  • Works that the copyright has expired

Accessing public domain works

Here is a short list of public domain resources easily found on the web:

Smithsonian Institution Public Domain Images

New York Times Public Domain Images

Project Gutenberg


Prelinger Archives

To read the full article about public domain click here.

Online image banks

If you are trying to find images and also trying to avoid breaking copyright law, check out some of these image banks. Also, make sure that no matter where you find your images, you read the fine print and follow all procedures to avoid issue.


From Old Books


National Park Service

Open Photo

PD Photo

Stock XChng



To read more about copyright law view the full article here.

What is fair use?

Fair use explains the ways images can be used for certain purposes, while avoiding copyright law. There are certain situations where such image use is acceptable.

Here is how the government defines fair use:

Four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of                 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
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the                         copyrighted work

So, for school projects you can see the mention of fair use pertaining to educational purposes. But, it doesn’t hurt to always site your sources.

To learn more visit the government website.


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