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Copyright & Fair Use: Art, Media & Music

Your guide to copyright, fair use, and rights and permissions from BC Library

Fair Use of Images

This Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study describes six uses of copyrighted still images that the Visual Resources Association ( believes fall within the U.S. doctrine of fair use.

The following six uses are:

  1. Use of images for in-class use.
  2. Use of images (both large, high-resolution images and thumbnails) on password protected course websites and in other platforms restricted to students and faculty at Brooklyn College.
  3. Adaptation of images for teaching and classroom work by students.
  4. Sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study.
  5. Reproduction of images in theses and dissertations.
  6. Preservation (storing images for repeated use in a teaching context and transferring images to new formats).

Consider these five variables when determining the fair use of images:

  1. The copyright status of the underlying work represented in the image.
  2. The copyright status of the photographic reproduction.
  3. The specific source from which you have obtained the image under consideration.
  4. Any terms of use or contract that may govern the uses of the image
  5. The intended use(s) of the image.

The Digital Image Rights Computator created by the Visual Resources Association can help you do this too.

Questions?  Please contact Professor Miriam Deutch,  718.951.5221.

Using Open Access Images

Using Open Access Images

You are free to use images taken from the public domain, licensed by the Creative Commons, or free of most copyright restrictions in multimedia projects, websites, blogs, portfolios, etc., that are open and available to the public.

However, even if images are in the public domain, there may be a few restrictions to their use. These are usually attribution requirements. *** Always read and comply with the use restrictions for specific image sources.  ***  Always cite images someone else created.

Check out some of these image resources.

Images from Library databases

ARTstor’s Images for Academic Publishing

The Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program makes available publication-quality images for use in scholarly publications free of charge. To find IAP images, simply add "IAP" to your search criteria. An icon reading "IAP" is located directly beneath the thumbnail image in your search results.

United States Government Websites
In general, most images on all U.S. government web sites (.gov) are in the public domain and free for you to use and share on a public website or blog, etc.. However, some restrictions may apply so make sure you review the policies of the individual sites for this information. 

image from the Library of Congress Prints and Photgraphs Reading Room

Migrant mother, Dorothea Lange, photograph, 1936.

The Library of Congress Print and Photographs Online Catalog contains access to millions of digital images including photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.

Copyright and Music

The regulation of music copyright has become extremely complicated for a number of reasons. To cite a few, there is a patchwork quilt of laws which often overlap and sometimes appear to contradict each other; copyright convention is not universal and questions arise concerning the validity of copyrights in other jurisdictions; some works have been known to come out of copyright only to be reinstated under new legislation. Copyright searching can be tedious and the following list of links is an attempt to make things easier by directing researchers to sites providing the most reliable information.

Music Library Association (MLA)
Frequently asked questions on copyright, fair use, preservation and various other issues related to music copyrights and licensing, edited by the Music Library Association. Website also includes links and bibliography.

Music Copyright Infringement Resource
The purpose of this site is to "make universally available information about U.S. music copyright infringement cases from the mid-nineteenth century forward." Includes coverage of recent copyright disputes, an overview of the judgments of prior cases, and a glossary of relevant terms.
Public Domain Music
"Information on this Site is Based Entirely on USA Copyright Laws. Any [score of a] Song or Musical Work Published in 1922 or Earlier is in the Public Domain in the USA."
USA Copyright Law for Sound Recordings
No sound-recordings are public domain in the United States due to a tangled complexity of Federal and State law.

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library)
Online score library offering access to over 200,000 scans of public domain scores. N.B. This library consists largely of user-contributed scans; each scan or edition is not necessarily of high scholarly or archival standards. For questions on selecting an edition for study or performance, please consult a music professor or librarian.

File Sharing – What You Should Know

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs have become a popular way to exchange music, movies, games and software over the Internet. Academic applications of these programs are also expanding. P2P software, if installed and enabled on your computer, allows digital media to be downloaded or uploaded between your computer and any other computer that also has these programs installed and enabled, and is also connected to the Internet.

If you use P2P programs, we want you to be aware of certain personal risks, including the potential for both criminal and civil liability if you copy and distribute materials without permission of the copyright owner.  Read more . . .