Fair Use of Online Images

By: Selena Scott

What is copyright? What is Fair Use?

  • Copyright is the exclusive legal right of something such as a book, music, lyrics, paintings, sculptures, images, etc. given to someone to have control of. Under the U.S. Copyright Law, your work is protected, and if someone commits copyright infringement, they can be punished by law.
  • Fair Use is the use of a copyrighted material on a limited basis for a specific purpose without the permission of the copyright holder.

What is Public Domain and How Does It Apply to Images?

Public domain are works not restricted by copyright and do not require permission to use. This picture is under public domain. Public domain includes:

  • Works that are submitted into public domain upon creation because they are not copyrightable
  • Works that have been assigned to public domain by their creators
  • Works that have expired into public domain because the copyright time is over

Many images are under public domain, and do not require permission from the owner to use.

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How do I know if an image is copyrighted, and can I use it if it is?

There are somethings you can look for to see if an image is copyrighted. You can look for;

  • watermarks
  • a copyright symbol
  • a note indicating ownership
  • an official copyright listing

If an image has any of these things, the image is copyrighted. However, some owners get a Creative Commons license for their work, meaning that it has a public copyright license that allows people to use and distribute the work, as long as they attribute the author.

If you attribute the author, credit or cite them, you can use their work! Doing this would make you a good digital citizen. You would would be using the Internet and your technology properly if abide by the rules and laws, which is what digital citizenship is.

Some examples of websites with free images and no copyright restrictions are: