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Finding and Using Images


Ethical Use:

It is your responsibility to verify whether or not you can use an image prior to including it in your work. This means obtaining permission of the copyright holder or creator prior to using an image or understanding the permission levels already granted.  Most databases and websites will provide information about how their images can be used and guidelines for attribution.

For example, content in the library databases are licensed for educational purposes. Which means Sac State students may use it without seeking special permission for your research papers or presentations. However, when dealing with freely available collections on the internet, check for copyright information, a license statement, terms and conditions or permission sections. And always make sure to give credit to the creator (see the Citing Images tab for more information).  

Check out this infographic to learn more on ethical use, copyright laws and terminology: Can I use this picture? 

What is Intellectual Property?

  • Creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.
  • Items protected in law (i.e. patentscopyright and trademarks), which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create.  
  • See the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to read more about IP.

What is Copyright?

Images are copyrighted as soon as they are created. Copyright is the legal protection extended to the creator of the work whether or not it has been published. The creator has exclusive rights [to] publish, display, make copies of, or [create] derivative works from the original. Unless determined to be Fair Use or falling under certain classroom exemptions, it is often illegal for anyone to copy, manipulate or use an image without the creator's permission. 

There are some openly licensed copyrighted images, such as those through Creative Commons. This means you do NOT have to ask permission from the creator; however, pay attention to the permission levels. See the Image Search Engines tab for more information about how to filter search engine results by license permissions. 

What is Creative Commons? 

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides copyright licenses for users to attribute on their work in a standardized way. Creators can determine the level of public permission to share, alter or reuse the work either commercially or non-commercially. This does not mean that materials are no longer copyrighted but have modified the terms of the copyright. Look for the CC license information; it will usually be visible when you open an image. Below is an example of the words and/or icons that CC images will have attached. In addition, remember to attribute the image to its creator in the proper citation format.

From the Creative Commons Licensing page:

creative commons icon description

Last Updated: Feb 13, 2024 2:32 PM