Using Images in Publications
Many scholarly publications are enhanced with images, ranging from reproductions of fine art to graphs showing the results of scientific research. Including images in a books and articles can complement the text, visually demonstrate the author's analysis, and engage for the reader. Using images in publications, however, raises permissions issues, which can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive:
- Obtaining a high resolution image. Publishers will require a high resolution image for publication (usually at least 300 ppi). These may come from museums, archives, other collections, your own work, or suppliers of stock photos. There may be a fee assessed for use, the amount of which can vary significantly depending on who is supplying the image and how you are using it.
- Obtaining copyright permission/use permission. The right to publish a copyrighted image is controlled by the copyright owner, so each copyrighted image that you use in a publication must have permission or fall within an exception to the general copyright statue, such as public domain, fair use, or open access. For images that are in the public domain, there is a further question as to whether the digitized image can be used without permission. Many museums claim copyright in a digital copy of their public domain works, although that directly contradicts a federal district court case which states that "slavish copies" of two dimensional works do not qualify for copyright protection because they lack a "spark of originality" as required in the copyright statute. (Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel, 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). So, in some cases, you may find that you will be charged a fee for the use of a digital image of a public domain work.
- Addressing privacy and publicity rights. If you have a photograph with people in it, there may be privacy or publicity rights that need to be addressed.
Read more about the legal issues with copyright and art permissions:
- Susan Bielstein, Copyright Clearance: A Publisher's Perspective (2005) (article begins on page 19)
- Susan Bielstein, Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property (2006) (ebook - Georgetown NetID required for off-campus access)
Below is information on the different copyright principles that might allow publication of an image. This page also covers where to find publication quality images and considerations for specific types of images (cover images, film frames, charts, graphs, and figures).
If you can find a usable image in a book or journal article published before 1923, it will be in the public domain, and therefore free of any copyright restriction. The library's Gelardin New Media Center can assist you with obtaining a high resolution image for publication. Certain images published between 1923 and 1989 may also be in the public domain, depending on if they were published with a copyright notice and if the copyright was renewed. For more information, use this public domain chart or contact Meg Oakley, Director, Copyright & Scholarly Communication.
Works of the United States government are also in the public domain and may be used freely.
Some museums, libraries, and archives make their public domain images freely available with few or no restrictions. Read more in the Finding Images section.
Open Access / Creative Commons
Wikimedia Commons has a large collection of images that are licensed using the Creative Commons licensing system. Restrictions, if any, are listed with the image. It is important to recognize that if you use Wikimedia, you are relying on copyright information provided by the person uploading the image, which may or may not be accurate.
Many of the licenses in Wikimedia permit noncommercial uses only. The definition of noncommercial in CC BY-NC images is, “NonCommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.” Creative Commons provides some further guidance on how to interpret the NC license.
Under certain circumstances, publishers may be comfortable with relying on fair use when publishing images accompanying scholarly works. For example, Duke University Press's Rights & Permissions guidelines include this statement:
It is important to note, however, that in some cases you may not need permission to use certain images or portions of text that belong to another party. Some material is in the public domain. In addition, Duke University Press strongly supports fair use. If you analyze an image or text in your work, we recommend that you discuss the issue of fair use with us before asking for permission to reproduce the material.
We do require that you clear permissions for all images that you use to complement the text but that are not directly analyzed and for images from museum collections or archives, which almost always require permission. If you have questions about how to approach issues of fair use and copyright, you should contact your editor. In your contract you assure the Press that you have secured necessary permissions and that your work does not infringe anyone's copyright, and so you may wish to seek legal advice from university counsel before deciding whether you can claim fair use.
The guidelines in the College Art Association’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts set out the fair use arguments for using art for educational purposes:
PRINCIPLE In their analytic writing about art, scholars and other writers (and, by extension, their publishers) may invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works, subject to certain limitations:
- The writer’s use of the work, whether in part or in whole, should be justified by the analytic objective, and the user should be prepared to articulate that justification.
- The writer’s analytic objective should predominate over that of merely representing the work or works used.
- The amount and kind of material used and (where images are concerned) the size and resolution of the published reproduction should not exceed that appropriate to the analytic objective.
- Justifications for use and the amount used should be considered especially carefully in connection with digital-format reproductions of born-digital works, where there is a heightened risk that reproductions may function as substitutes for the originals.
- Reproductions of works should represent the original works as accurately as can be achieved under the circumstances.
- The writing should provide attribution of the original work as is customary in the field, to the extent possible.
Your own work
If you have your own high resolution photograph of a work in the public domain, you may use it freely since you own the copyright in your photograph and there is no copyright in the underlying work. If however, your photograph is of a copyrighted work, permission of the artist will be required unless it is a fair use. Note that many museums do not allow photography of works in their collections, so obtaining your own image of a public domain work may or may not be an option. While architectural works are subject to copyright protection, photographs of publicly viewable buildings may be used. 17 U.S.C. § 120(a).
If your image does not fall into any of the above categories, you will need to request permission from the copyright holder for use of the image. You may be able to obtain permission from one of the stock images sites listed in the next section, or you may need to request permission from the artists or their representatives. The Artists Rights Society represents the intellectual property rights interests of over 50,000 visual artists and their estates worldwide and covers works in private collections as well as museums and galleries. ARS has a request form for permissions requests. Note that ARS handles permission requests only and does not supply images of the works.
For general information on requesting permission, click here.
Museums, libraries, and archives
Some museums, libraries, and archives have collections of public domain images available for use in scholarly publications. The content of the collections and the permitted uses vary among institutions. Many do not allow images to be used as cover art since that is usually considered to be a commercial use, and some limit use to print publications. Below is a list of libraries and museums that make works available with few or no restrictions. Most institutions also have an online form or email address through which you can request permissions. Fees for use vary greatly, and permission requests are sometimes granted for free or rejected.
- British Library - The British Library’s collection on flickr allows access to millions of public domain images from the Library's collections. Higher quality images, if required, are available for purchase through the British Library. Read more on the Library's Copyright and Your use of the British Library Website page.
- J. Paul Getty Museum - The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. More information about the content of the collections is available on their Open Content Program page.
- Library of Congress - Prints and Photographs - This collection has over 1,000,000 images from the Library's collections. Rights information is available for each image - look for the field marked "Rights Advisory." Many collections have no known restrictions on use. For further information about using the collection, read the Copyright and Other Restrictions That Apply to Publication/Distribution of Images. Information on restrictions on use by collection is also available.
- National Gallery, London - The National Gallery waives image reproduction fees for scholarly publications including academic books and journals, student theses and academic presentations or lectures through its Scholarly Waiver program. One significant restriction is that the waiver does not apply to online books or articles.
- National Gallery of Art - NGA Images is a repository of images presumed to be in the public domain from the collections of the National Gallery of Art. Users may download— free of charge and without seeking authorization from the Gallery— any image of a work in the Gallery’s collection that the Gallery believes is in the public domain and is free of other known restrictions.
- New York Public Library - This collection contains more than 180,000 photographs, postcards, maps and other public-domain items from the library’s special collections in downloadable high-resolution files. High resolutions downloads are available with no permission required and no restrictions on use.
Stock image sites
There are many companies that provide both a high quality image for publication and a license for publication. These sites usually have good selection of images, the images are high quality, and the search features are sophisticated. Licensing fees vary considerably and can be high, though you may be able to negotiate a discount for use in a scholarly publication.
For most of the sites listed below you will need to specify what rights you want for publication: print/electronic, region of the world, number of languages, number of books, where the image will be placed (inside/cover), and size of the image. After entering that information, a license fee will display based on your use. The license fee is not automatically available for some images; for those, you will usually receive an email message after submitting your request. You should consult with your editor when selecting options to be sure you have selected the appropriate options for your book or article.
Artstor (Georgetown NetID required for off-campus access) is a subscription database that includes some images specifically licensed for academic publishing. These images are identified with “IAP” (Images for Academic Publishing) under the thumbnail image in your search results. Details of the use, including size of print run and credit line, vary among IAP images. You can view these by clicking on the IAP icon under the thumbnail image. The Terms and Conditions agreement displays when you download the image. Most Artstor images, however, are not in the IAP program and are not licensed for use in scholarly publishing. To use a non-IAP image in a book or article, you will usually need to request permission or go through a fee-based stock photo archive, often Art Resource, for a license. Artstor provides contact information for permissions in the "Rights" section of image information page.
You may also find usable images for publication on the sites listed on our Copyright and Multimedia: Images page.
Images that appear on the cover of a book often require specific permission for that use and a higher fee.
The American Association of University Presses has this statement on the fair use and film frames states in their copyright FAQ:
You may use frame enlargements and publicity stills (both from films and from television shows) when you can justify their inclusion in the work under “fair use” guidelines—for example, when it can be argued that the illustration serves as a quote from the film “text” to illustrate a point. If they are reproduced in a scholarly way—if, for example, in order to illustrate the discussion, details are reproduced from the photograph in black and white and reduced in size, when the original is in color—their use might be considered as fair. Be conservative in selecting material—if the still or frame illuminates a point you are making or is specifically discussed, then the use is probably a fair use. If it is just decorative, leave it out. Where possible, limit the number of frames reprinted from any one film and from different films that represent the work of one particular person (e.g., a director or actor). If you purchase material from a photo agency, read the conditions stated on the agreement (particularly the fine print) and on the back of the photo very carefully. In all cases, acknowledge the original copyright holder. For a more in-depth analysis of fair use as related to stills and frame enlargements, please see the Society for Film and Media Studies website . . .
If your use goes beyond fair use, or if your publisher has a more restrictive policy, you will need to get permission from the copyright owner. Most major film studios have a licensing division where you can submit a request – MGM, Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, Universal, and Walt Disney Studios, for example. For smaller producers, you will need to contact them directly with your request.
Charts, graphs, and figures
There are differences among publishers with respect to what permissions they require for graphs, so a good first step is to consult with your editor on their policies on the reuse of charts and graphs. For example:
- Princeton University Press - "We recommend that PUP authors consider assertive fair use for graphs and charts used in the context of scholarly argument. If you reproduce a table or graph that is essential to the underpinning of your scholarly argument, and the material does not have any other complicating factors such as trademark or privacy rights, PUP recommends you consider a fair use of that image. On the other hand, if your work is not scholarly, or the argument and/or image is ancillary or decorative, then fair use would not be easily argued."
- MIT Press - "Permission is needed for photographs, drawings and other artworks; text excerpts; maps, charts, graphs; and any other work protected by copyright."
- Oxford University Press - "Visual illustrations, including photographs, paintings, line drawings, graphs, maps, cartoons, and other types of images, almost always require permission from the copyright holder."
There are permissions guidelines that many STM publishers use in setting policies for the reuse of images from their publications, which will streamline the permissions process for many STM works. The guidelines include the following provision:
Permission is, or in the case of an express permission requirement, should be, granted free of charge, with respect to a particular journal article or book being prepared for publication, to: use up to three figures (including tables) from a journal article or book chapter, but:
- not more than five figures from a whole book or journal issue/edition:
- not more than six figures from an annual journal volume; and
- not more than three figures from works published by a single publisher for an article, and not more than three figures from works published by a single publisher for a book chapter (and in total not more than thirty figures from a single publisher for re-publication in a book, including a multi-volume book, with different authors per chapter)
STM signatories are listed here - note that not all members have adopted policies exactly as written in the guidelines.
Publishers who follow the STM guidelines, or who have similar policies, provide free permissions through RightsLink, so those requests are usually quick, easy, and free. The RightsLink system requires information about your publication and exactly what rights you are seeking. For charts, graphs, or figures that fall outside the guidelines, the license fees are often in the $20-$50 range, although that depends on many factors and could be higher or lower.
If you have questions about using images in a scholarly publication, please email Meg Oakley, Director, Copyright & Scholarly Communication.