Answered By: Jane Cooke
Last Updated: Jan 16, 2024     Views: 1306

For Copyright purposes images and illustrations, whether they are in digital or printed format, are all classed as 'artistic works'.

The length of the copyright period usually lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. Therefore, all images less than 70 years old are still in copyright.

Generally, you must seek permission of the copyright holder to use an image. This permission can be obtained through direct contact with the creator or it can be facilitated with the use of a Creative Commons Licence. The terms of these licences explicitly state what you can and can’t do with the work in question without requiring contact with the creator. For more information about Creative Commons licences, please see the Creative Commons section (link to CC guide here) of this guide.

Permission does not need to be sought in some cases, for instance if:

  • You are the creator of the image and own the copyright
  • The image is no longer in copyright
  • Your use of the image counts as a “permitted act”. More information can be found at the Intellectual Property Office website but these permitted acts include:
    • Non-commercial research and private study
    • Text and data mining for non-commercial research
    • Criticism, review
    • To illustrate a teaching point
    • Helping disabled people
    • These permitted acts are all subject to the concept of Fair Dealing.

Fair Dealing 

Fair dealing requires a judgment to be made. Each case is different. But where the use would not affect sales of the work and where the amount of work copied is reasonable and appropriate then it is likely that it can be considered fair dealing.

Be aware that even your own photos of artworks and panoramas may not be risk-free: although an artist's copyright may have expired (usually 70 years after their death), the gallery may have a 'no photographs' policy which doesn't exempt educational use. Or the country where you took the photo may impose legal restrictions on the reproduction of copyright material sited in public (including France, Italy and Greece).

All images used must be properly acknowledged and attributed.

There are lots of resources on the web that provide copyright-free or Creative Commons licenced images for you to use. Sites like Flickr, for example, allow you to refine your search by Creative Commons licence. Here are some other sites that provide access to free-to-use or clearly licenced images:

New Old Stock
Wikimedia Commons
ARKive: Images of Life on Earth

Google with the advanced search called 'usage rights'

It is essential to check the licence and what can be done with the materials in each case.

The University has a MS Office License - to check for what the end user license states for use with images from MS: 

Microsoft service agreement

Microsoft permissions

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