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Digital images: Copyright

This guide provides links to image databases and resources to help you find and effectively use digital images in your scholarly work.

Using images in research and coursework

You can use images in your research under copyright law as long as

  1. You haven’t agreed to terms of use that prevent use in research. For example a licence states non-commercial use only and the research is actually funded by a commercial partner and
  2. The use falls under a 'Fair Dealing' purpose such as research and study or criticism and review and
  3. The use is fair. For example is there harm to the owner in your use? Could you purchase the item instead of copying it?  Or
  4. Your use falls within the explicit licence terms of the image or
  5. You get permission to use the image from the copyright owner.
  6. You haven't removed a digital watermark or other electronic rights management information without permission from the copyright owner.

You can't usually rely on fair dealing for making multiple copies, or making images available to the general public (publishing). These activities would require permission from the copyright owners (usually the photographer, the artist, the publisher or an Image library such as Getty Images). All images should be properly attributed. See Moral Rights.

Consult the Copyright Adviser for further advice and refer to the general information on Fair Dealing and on Using images in your assignments, coursework or research

Are the images in copyright?

This information only applies if the images you are using are still in copyright. Images are only in the public domain if copyright protection has expired. In Australia, photos taken before 1955 are out of copyright and if an artist died before 1 January 1955 their work is also out of copyright. All other photos are protected for the life of the photographer plus 70 years. Protection for paintings, etchings and other types of image also lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. See duration of copyright for more information.

Using creative commons images

Creative commons is a type of licensing that often allows use in research or teaching. But not all creative commons licenses are the same.  There are six main licence types with quite different terms and conditions. These terms must be followed, just like any other licensed material that you use.

Creative Commons licence types: Attribution (CC BY); Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA); Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND); Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC); Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA); Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

All Creative Commons licences require attribution. Best practice attribution is:

or a link to the artist or photographer and a link to the license terms themselves See 'How to attribute a Creative Commons photo'.

Non-commercial use may restrict use of the image on social media where personal postings may be moneterised (by selling advertising or information)

No derivatives means you are not permitted to alter the image e.g. may restrict ability to crop or change the colour tone

Share alike means you can only use or made the new work available under the same conditions as the creative commons material you want to use e.g. if you copy a short film that has a creative commons license non-commercial share-alike, that means your dissemination of anything including that film must also be non-commercial and licensed under creative commons as share-alike.

NOTE: Anyone can take an image and put a creative commons license on it. Consider whether it is likely that the webmaster or supposed copyright owner actually can make the image available e.g. ask whether an ordinary user would have the rights to popular film or TV images or cartoons

Other useful licensed databases for education resources are at Copyright free and Creative Commons resources

Consult the Copyright Adviser for further advice

Using images in teaching

You can use images in your teaching under copyright law as long as

  1. You haven’t agreed to any terms and conditions preventing this use eg you haven’t clicked on an ‘I agree’ button that you will only use the image for personal use and
  2. You follow the terms of the Educational copyright licence meaning
    1.  Access is restricted to students and staff of Monash (through authcate) and
    2.  the copyright warning notice appears before the image eg first slide of powerpoint or
  3. Teaching is already permitted by the explicit licence terms eg ‘free for education’ or
  4. You have written permission to use the image for teaching eg an email from the copyright owner
  5. You haven't removed a digital watermark or other electronic rights management information without permission from the copyright owner.

NOTE: Some images are online without permission of the copyright owner. If there are no citation details (especially name of photographer) this may show that the image is unauthorised. Any licence terms attached would not necessarily apply. Permission has to come from the legitimate copyright owner.

All images should be properly attributed. See Moral Rights.

See Using images in course materials or consult the Copyright Adviser for further advice or information.