Before reusing an image in a presentation or publication, it is recommended that you complete the following steps to determine if you must request permission to use it. (Not all images require reuse permission.)
Step 1: Determine the copyright status of the image.
Who created the image? When was it published/created? Who currently owns the copyright for the image? This information will help you determine whether or not the image has passed into the public domain. If the image is in the public domain, you are free to use it however you wish, without permission. (But remember to cite your sources.)
Step 2: Look for a reuse license associated with the image.
Examples of licenses:
Step 3: Determine whether the use of the image falls under Fair Use.
Fair Use is a a provision of U.S. Copyright Law that permits use of copyrighted materials without permission under certain circumstances. For instance, if a copyrighted image is used as the subject of sustained criticism or commentary, rather than for aesthetic or illustrative purposes, the use will likely qualify as fair. Use the Fair Use Checklist (below) to evaluate the fairness of your intended use, and keep copies of completed checklists as evidence of your due diligence.
Step 4: Seek permission from the copyright owner if your use does not fall under Fair Use.
Disclaimer: publishers may charge you a fee to reuse an image. Detailed information on seeking permission, including templates of permission request letters, is available in the following guide:
Step 5: Reconsider your use of the work if you cannot get permission.
If you determine that your use does not fall under Fair Use, and you are unable to obtain permission or pay a licensing fee, reconsider your use of this work to see if you can make a stronger fair use case, or consider using another work.
If you have determined that your use of a copyrighted image falls under Fair Use, consider the following:
Use a Fair Use checklist to assess each copyrighted work you wish to include under Fair Use. Keep copies of completed checklists to document your Fair Use assessments.
Review the Center for Media & Social Impact’s Code of Best Practices. These codes contain detailed best practices for exercising Fair Use in different disciplines and for different kinds of copyrighted works.
Ensure that any copyrighted materials you incorporate under Fair Use are integral to your argument. If a copyrighted work is the subject of sustained criticism or commentary, such that readers would have difficulty understanding your argument if the work were omitted, then the use is more likely to be fair. However, using a copyright work for aesthetic or illustrative purposes is less likely to qualify as Fair Use.
Incorporate copyrighted materials at the smallest size or resolution necessary to make your scholarly argument. For example, large images may be best or even required to illustrate small background elements or obscure details, but in other instances, smaller reference images may suffice.
Provide attributions to the copyright owners of the copyrighted images where known. Although not legally required under Fair Use, attributions may help demonstrate a user's good faith in adhering to the broader scholarly traditions of providing citations when using others' works.