Skip to main content

Journalism - Finding and Using Images, Maps, Video & Audio: Copyright and Images

Tips, techniques & links to help you find answers for your research papers & projects

Copyright and Fair Use

 For The Content Creator:

Copyright attaches as soon as a work of authorship is created.  The work could be literary, written, dramatic, artistic (photographs, video, audio, infographics, etc.), musical and certain other types of works and it does not require the author to file any special paperwork as do patents or trademarks.

A copyright holder has four exclusive rights (17 USC Section 106):

  1. Reproduce the copyrighted work
  2. Display the copyrighted work publicly
  3. Prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work
  4. Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental or lending, and/or to display the image.

Copyright does not apply to:

  • Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected."
  • Works in the public domain:
  • The term of copyright for the work has expired
  • The author of a work published before 1978 failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright
  • The copyright owner has dedicated the copyright term to the public or
  • The U.S. Government is the source.

For The Content User :

Fair Use" Doctrine May Apply

Section 107 (17 USC Section 107) of the Copyright Act states:

The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the four factors to be considered shall include:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose
  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.

To help support a fair use case for reusing an image:

  • Use thumbnail versions when possible
  • Place the image in a new context or use it for a new purpose
  • Use only the parts of the image needed for the purpose

For more assistance with copyright, use the MU Libraries Copyright guide.

Academic Use of Images, Video and Maps

Copyright for Educators

Best Practices for Using Images by Art and Visual Resources Organizations

  1. Preservation: Storing images for repeated use in a teaching context; Transferring images to new formats
  2. Use of images for teaching purposes
  3. Use of images on course websites and other online study materials
  4. Adaptations of images for teaching and classroom work by students
  5. Sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study
  6. Reproduction of images in theses and dissertations

VRA also created a Digital Image Rights Computator to assist users in assessing the intellectual property status of a specific image.

Copyright for Graduate Students

Are You Using Images Legally? The law without legalize.

Sara Hawkins, creator of a Blog Law series, explains "The best ways to be sure that you're legally using online photos" in this Lifehacker article.

Sara Hawkins is the creator of a Blog Law series to help other bloggers, entrepreneurs, and online professionals gain legal confidence. Her goal is to make the law understandable and approachable without being overwhelming.

Go to TheVisualCommunicationGuy's website for a larger view of Can I Use that Picture? infographic.

Fair Use for Journalism

The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) has created a Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism to help journalists in the United States interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use.  According to CMSI, "This set of principles does not describe the full extent of fair use rights.  Instead, it describes how those rights should apply in certain common situations for journalists." Included with each principle is a description and its limitations based on these situations:

  1. Incorporation of copyrighted material captured incidentally and fortuitously in the process of recording and disseminating news.
  2. Use of copyrighted material as proof or substantiation in news reporting or analysis.
  3. When copyrighted material is used in cultural reporting and criticism.
  4. When copyrighted material is used as illustration in news reporting or analysis.
  5. When copyrighted material is used as historical reference in news reporting or analysis.
  6. Using copyrighted material for the specific purpose of starting or expanding a public discussion of news.
  7. Quoting from copyrighted material to add value and knowledge to evolving news.

Locating Copyright Holders

Best Practices for Locating Copyright Owners of Photographic and Visual Art - from the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) - provides suggestions and tools for locating known and unknown image creators.

Bielstein, Susan M. Permissions:  A Survival Guide:  Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2006.