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Design Studies 501: Material Culture of Childhood (Spring 2021) : Copyright and Open Access

Image Copyright

After you've selected objects to research you'll need to consider which images are acceptable to use. This consideration is more complicated since the images will be publicly posted in an online exhibit.

Any image may be under copyright, and its reuse will be restricted. Your first step should always be to identify copyright restrictions. However, many images can still be used for educational projects, provided you follow Fair Use Guidelines. Fair Use is a doctrine of US Copyright Law allowing for the limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the copyright holder. It permits legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another creator's work using the Four Factors.

Keeping copyright issues in mind, here are some strategies for finding and using images:

  • Many museums now have high-resolution images of their collections online for open use. See a selected list in this guide on the tab "Sources for Object Research" under "Sourcing Images." 
  • To find large, high-quality images on the open web, do a Google Image search and select "large" images under "tools." Remember that this will not search all online image collections everywhere. It is highly recommended you search more specific image collections, such as those of a museum.
  • You can also limit your search only to images licensed for re-use by selecting "Tools" --> "Usage Rights" --> "Creative Commons licenses." 
  • There is a scanner in the Kohler Art Library if you want want to scan images from books.

Ask before Using

If you need to use material under copyright you can apply the Four Factors to see if your situation qualifies as a fair use. However it is often advisable to request permission from the copyright holder. See these guidelines for obtaining permission.