As a student, especially in disciplines like history, communications, art, etc., you may need to search for images and use them as part of class presentations, research papers, or assignments in other formats. Finding images is increasingly easy due to the Internet, but many of these images belong to other people, even if you do not immediately see a copyright notice.
Fortunately, due to a principle called fair use, you are often able to reuse other people's photographs, digital artwork, etc. under certain conditions. You can do so because one of the following is true:
Please read through this guidance before reusing other people's images. This page does not constitute legal advice. If you are unsure about a specific situation, contact the library or your professor.
Any time you create something - a photograph, essay, digital artwork, sculpture, etc. - you own a copyright on that work; it is your intellectual property. Because you own the copyright, it is illegal for someone else to claim it as theirs. They cannot copy your design or words, put their name on it, or sell it. You automatically have a copyright on your work, even if you have not published it, for your lifetime plus another 70 years.
Most images you find on the Internet belong to someone else. There are some circumstances in which you can reuse online images, especially as a student or educator, due to the principle of fair use.
Assume that most images that you find are under copyright unless indicated otherwise.
Fair use allows you to reuse other people's work under certain circumstances, which you can view in greater detail by visiting the US Copyright Office website.
Fair use guidelines are intentionally broad - there is no checklist or black and white situation where a circumstance is "always" or "definitely" fair use.
Instead, a given situation can be more likely or less likely to be considered fair use. Ask yourself the following questions. Just because your answer to one or more of the questions makes your purpose "less likely" to be fair use does not automatically mean that you can't use the image.