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Images--How to Find, Use and Cite

Can I Use Images In My Work at KPU?

Exceptions in the Copyright Act allow you to use images for educational purposes in a couple of different ways:

Exception for Education

Under Section 29.4(1)(b) of the Copyright Act you are permitted to project an image for the purposes of education or training on the premises of an educational institution. So for example, you can show an image in the classroom.

Exception for "Fair Dealing"

The "Fair Dealing" exception allows for  the use of copyright materials for educational purposes under the following conditions:

  • You must properly attribute:  indicate the title, author and source for each image.
  • You must comply with the amounts and limits as defined in the Fair Dealing Guidelines.  Under Fair Dealing you can use one entire image from a compilation of images (e.g. a gallery of images on the Web; a book with images) or up to 10% of a stand-alone image (an image that is not part of a larger compilation but is on its own).
  • Copying is more likely to be fair if it is done for a limited audience. For example, posting material on a secure system with password protection is more likely to be fair than uploading material to the open Internet

Exception for Using Material from the Internet

The Copyright Modernization Act, Section 30.04, allows educational institutions, for educational purposes, to reproduce, save, download and share publicly available materials that are on the Internet, under certain conditions. You can reproduce an entire image from the Internet, as long as there is no clearly visible notice prohibiting copying and as long as you are not breaking a TPM (Technological Protection Measure).

Alternatives to using copyright protected images whose use falls under one of the above exceptions include::

  • using  images that are posted to the Web under a Creative Commons licence
  • using images that are in the public domain.
  • using images from licenced sources

Good practices in using images:

  • use images that contribute to the content of the work and reinforce the information, not just inserted for aesthetics. 
  • use caution and check the copyright statements or terms of use for each site.
  • exercise due diligence in ensuring the copy reproduced is made from a lawful source.

Asking Permission

You always have the option of requesting permission from the copyright holder to use an image   This may not always be easy or quick, but is an option if you are unsure, or if the terms of use so require.

What Uses are Permitted?

Permitted uses of images found in published works  or from the Internet include: 

  • Viewing, printing, downloading images for research & private study
  • Projecting images as part of instruction in the classroom
  • Posting to your course management system (proper attribution required)
  • Including in handouts (proper attribution required)
  • Including print images in a paper, if that paper is not copied or distributed outside the institution
  • Providing links to images

What Uses are Not Permitted?

Publishing or distributing images in any manner for commercial uses, without obtaining permission,  is generally not permitted.  

Publishing or distributing images in any manner, for uses that are made widely available, without obtaining permission, is generally not permitted.  Extreme caution must be used when posting to a public website.

Altering the work in any way, unless the creator has waived their moral rights, is not permitted

How Much Can I Use Under Fair Dealing?

Images from a published work:  when including multiple graphs and images from a published work, the total amount must not exceed 10% of the work to qualify as a 'short excerpt' under fair dealing,   A helpful rule of thumb is to count each image as one page.  So 5 images = 5 pages and if the work is 100 pages this would likely qualify as fair dealing.

Images from a website:  since the 10% rule is difficult to apply for materials on a website you will need to determine if the material qualifies as a short excerpt.  For example, a single image as long as the website contains other images would likely qualify.

Can I Use Google Images?

Sometimes Yes, sometimes No.

Copyright Statement from Google: “The images identified by the Google Image Search service may be protected by copyright. Although you can locate and access the images through our service, we cannot grant you any rights to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web. Accordingly, if you would like to use any images you have found through our service, we advise you to contact the site owner to obtain the requisite permissions.”

To use images retrieved through Google Images you must go to the original site so you can see if there is any notice prohibiting use.

You can also use the feature in Google Image Search that limits the search to only those images that can be freely used.  To look for Creative Commons licensed photographs you can filter from the “Search Tools” menu on the search results page,  choose 'Usage rights' , and select one of the  'filtered for.......'. choices from the drop down menu. 


What About Personal Original Images?

If you are the creator of an image you can use it as you like, provided you own the copyright.  If you published the images you may have transferred copyright ownership to the publisher.  Review your Copyright Transfer Agreement for information on ownership and re-use.  Information may also be available from the publisher website or check the Sherpa/RoMEO site for standard publisher re-use guidelines.

What are Some Sources of Images?

Sources of images include:

  • Images available on the Internet
  • Images available under a licence or subscription
  • Public Domain Images
  • Personal Original Images

Can I Use Images From the Internet?

It is permissible to use portions of material from a website (including images) in the classroom or posted to a course managment system:

  • if such material falls under the definition of short excerpt and satisfies the criteria of fair dealing
  • if the website is not questionable or is not using 3rd party material without the copyright owner's consent
  • if there is not a clearly visible posting on the website that prohibits educational use
  • if you do not need to break or circumvent a digital lock to obtain a copy of the material
  • if the material is in the 'public domain' (material where the creator has been dead for over 50 years or has donated the material to the public)
  • Google images--use only if you can cite the original image from the original webpage or if you have permission from the copyright owner.
  • Other sources--use only if you can cite the original image from the original webpage or if you have permission from the copyright owner.

Note: Permission to use images is often located in a website's fine print, such as the 'Terms of Use' or 'Legal Notices'.  Check the terms for restrictions or limitations.

Do I Need To Check the Terms of Use?

Although there are many ways to find sites that contain images, only a relatively small percentage of sites allow totally 'free' use.  It is important to check the terms and conditions of use and how/where to request permission if necessary.  Even with Royalty-Free/Educational Use it is necessary to check the terms of use for each resource, as some have restrictions (e.g. non-commercial, attribution) or terms may change without notice.

 Examples of Terms and Conditions from free sites:

 For terms of use click on:

Conditions of use: “Resources and materials available through the Digital Library and Archives…are available for use in research, teaching, and private study.  For these purposes, you may reproduce (print or download) materials without prior permission, on the condition that you provide proper attribution of the source in all copies”.

Media Usage Guidelines:  "NASA content - images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format - generally are not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages."



What About Images Available Under a Licence or Subscription?

You can use images that have been authorized for educational use under a licence or subscription.  Prior to using, review terms for conditions and/or restrictions.

Examples of licenced resources include:

  • Collections licenced by the KPU Library (e.g. ARTstor)
  • Publisher issued licences that accompany a textbook you are using (e.g. for classroom use means you have permission)
  • Creative Commons licences
  • Collections available for free

What About Creative Commons Images?

What is Creative Commons?  Creative Commons is a nonprofit organizition that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.  It allows copyright owners to provide users with varying degrees of access to their works.  The author of a book, for example, can put that book online under a Creative Commons licence that allows users to copy all or part of the book, even for commercial purposes. 

 Find out more about the Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search is a meta-search tool which can be used to find CC-licensed images on Google Images, Fotopedia, Europeana, etc., as well as other CC-licensed works.

Important:  Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.

What About Images From the Public Domain?

The term of copyright in Canada is normally life of the author/creator plus an additional 50 years.  When copyright has expired, images are in the public domain and are free to use without permission.  Any photograph taken before 1948 is in the Public Domain in Canada.

In addition, some creators assign their work to the public domain so it can be freely used.

Many public domain resources can be found on the web. 

Click here for a great guide on the public domain produced by UBC.