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 fair use? It's a confusing concept, but it means that there are exceptions to the rule that you must always have permission from the creator before you can use their work. If you are using it for purposes such as criticism, commentary, or scholarship, it may be okay--but there are exceptions, so reading this is a good idea.
Fair use in a digital environment can be even more confusing. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act deals with this and other online copyright-related issues.
This is the Artists' Rights Society's basic explanation of some elements of copyright--what it is, how long it lasts, etc.
If you are just using an ARTstor image for a regular school paper, that's acceptable as long as it's for noncommercial, scholarly use. However, if you want to use an image that you found on ARTstor in an academic publication, you need to purchase the rights to do so. More information can be found by clicking the link.
Maybe you want to use an image from a specific museum. If so, it's a good idea to check out their website and find out what rules they have about using their images. You may have to pay a fee. Check out the Met's policy by clicking the link.
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:
These four factors can be combined in various ways. For more on this, visit creativecommons.org.
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