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ART 4355 Abstract Expressionism and its Legacies

using other people's work

Special thanks to Caitlin Servilio for permission to use this information that she authored for Princeton University Library's art guides.


There are many artists that appropriate other images as elements of their work.  You may also want to use an image to prove a point in a paper or put it on your website.  However, it's important to be careful and be aware of the laws governing image rights.  Here are some resources that may help you figure out whether you can use an image or not:

what is a Creative Commons license?

You may have seen sites with captions that say that an image is protected by the Creative Commons license.  Creative Commons is a type of copyright or licensing agreement between the creator of an image and everybody else on the Internet.  If you look closely, the Creative Commons license that goes with an image will tell you exactly what you can and can't do with an image.  There are four basic qualifications:

  •  Attribution:  If you see this image or "CC BY", that means you can use the image if and only if you give credit to the original creator.
  •  Noncommercial: If you see an icon  with a dollar sign and strike through or "CC NC", you may not sell it or use it in any commercial way.
  •  No Derivative Works: If you see an icon with an = (equal sign) or "CC ND", you may not alter, modify, or change it in any way.
  • Share Alike:If you see the "share alike" icon or "CC SA", you can use the image only under the terms of the original licensing agreement.  (see for more details)

These four factors can be combined in various ways.  For more on this, visit

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