Skip to Main Content

Copyright and Images

Although nothing here should be considered legal advice, this guide outlines six possible approaches to more safely and legally use other creators' images in your own work, along with comments on the advantages and legal risks of each.

Jason L. Hardin

Profile Photo
Jason Hardin
he / his
Library circulation, room 303B

ext. 8181 (on campus)

Office hours: 2:00pm - 3:00pm, Thursdays; and by appointment

Fair Use provisions can leave you wondering if the image you found can be used or not without infringement. Here is a brief outline of five scenarios for using images in your work. 

Note that in ALL cases, properly attributing the original creator is necessary.

Option 1: Use whatever you want and claim fair use.

  • A Google image search that brings back millions of results. 
  • This is a problem because...
    • no regard for the original creator's rights
    • no way to know if your use is fair use
    • opens you up to charges of infringement especially if the work can be found online.

Option 2: Pay to use professional stick images

  • stock photos like Getty Images, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Dreamstime, and 123RF offer great high-quality photos for a cost
  • they can be expensive
  • consider what the use is

Option 3: Use Stock photos provided by a free image source

  • websiWebsitesain Public Domain images like: pixabay, pxhere, unsplash, vistacreate, pexels, and Canva
  • imageImagesd be taken from elsewhere. If you use a photo from Pixabay, run the file through a reverse search on Google Images to try to identify the source and determine if it is ok to use.

Option 4: Use Public Domain or Creative Common-licenses works

  • Creative Commons has legally established and broadly permissive livenses that encourage free creative exchange
  • Try: openverse, Flickr's creative commons, Wikimedia commons
  • Most work prior to 1923 are in the public domain
  • Try other places like: the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, ArtSTOR, rawpixel, the Smithsonian and others.

Option 5: Create own image using AI 

  • Try tools like Dall-E 2, Canva, Artbreeder, or Deep Dream Generator
  • only humans can hold intellectual property rights