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Intellectual Property: Copyright, Fair Use, Permissions, and Citations

Introduction to Copyright for Visual Materials


This guide will help you ethically use visual resources; specifically those created by cultural institutions (museums, galleries, archives and libraries). Although we might be familiar with copyright when working with text-based materials, visual resources offer their own challenges.

The content of this guide is not intended to provide legal advice.


Best Practices for Using Visual Resources (from College Art Association)

Principles for Analytic Writing:
"In their analytic writing about art, scholars and other writers (and, by extension, their publishers) may invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works, subject to certain limitations:" 

  • Use only those images, or portions of images, that illustrate your point
  • The use of the image should be secondary to the point it intends to illustrate
  • The size and resolution of the image should be only as large as is required to illustrate your point
  • Extra consideration should be taken when using reproductions of born-digital works in a online environment
  • One should strive toward the most accurate representations of the original work
  • One should provide attribution of the original work, and the location where the reproduction was acquired