For copyright purposes, images are considered to be 'Artistic works', and subject to the terms governing this type of work. This includes single images, or those within books, journals or on websites.   

Examples of types of images covered by copyright include: photographs, illustrations, diagrams, charts, graphs, cartoons, paintings.  

Copyright in artistic works lasts until 70 years after the death of the artist/photographer. Where there are multiple creators copyright expires 70 years after the death of the last remaining creator.

Using images

Before you include images in dissertations, presentations, webpages (including within Moodle and other restricted access sites, such as intranet pages or research collaboration spaces), you normally need  permission from the rights holder.

You do not need explicit permission if you know the image is:

  • out of copyright;
  • issued under a Creative Commons licence which allows re-use for the purpose for which you would like to use the image
  • covered by a licence held by the University of Nottingham for teaching purposes. 
  • Your intended use falls under a permitted copyright exception and is fair dealing. 

For artistic works you may need to consider other related rights before reusing a work.  For example, a logo or cartoon character may be registered as a trademark.

Copyright checklist

Before making use of an image in your work, ask yourself the following questions.  Click on the question to see the answer:

Am I the image rights holder?

If you created the image, or took the photo, then you are the copyright owner. Unless:

  • You have assigned it to someone else, 
  • You have copied (e.g. scanned, photographed) something where the rights are owned by someone else (e.g. pages in a published book)
Did someone else create the image?
You need to seek permission from the photographer or rights holder, for the specific use you intend to make of it.
Is the image a photograph of people?
Even if you took the photo, you need the permission of those appearing in the photo to make use of the image, the only exception would be if the people are incidental to the photo, (e.g. a picture of a building with people passing by) and not easily identifiable.
Is this an image of other images?
For example, a picture of portraits in a museum. Then you would need to seek permission from the museum or artist.
What is the source of the image?
Many images are freely available via image sharing sites and other social media. Be wary about reuse and always check the terms and conditions of use on the site you are sourcing images from.  Remember, the person sharing the original image may not be the rights holder, so reusing images from such sources can be risky.

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Finding copyright cleared images

There are some sources of images which you can reuse without needing to seek additional permission.

Click for a list of sources:
  • CC Search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. Creative Commons, the non-profit behind CC Search, is the maker of the CC licenses. CC Search searches across more than 300 million images.
  • Pixabay allows the sharing of copyright free images and videos by creators. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which allows use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist. See the Pixabay licence and FAQs to see what is allowed.
  • Flickr, the photo sharing website, provides an Advanced Search option to search only Creative Commons content. Remember to check that the CC licence applies for the use you intend to make of the image.
  • Xpert: This University of Nottingham service enables you to search across several online sources of open content and add the name of the creator and the source to the file you download.
  • Wikimedia Commons is a database of images, sounds and videos. Most content can be freely reused, but you will need to check content for individual restrictions.
  • EUscreen offers free online access to videos, stills, texts and audio from European broadcasters and audiovisual archives. Explore selected content from early 1900s until today.
  • The Digital Inspiration ‘Can I Use This Image On My Website?’ flowchart is a quick way to establish whether you might be able to use an image.

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Where you have permission to use an image, be that via direct authorisation from the copyright holder, or use under licence (subscription, CLA, or Creative Commons) include this attribution with the image:

  1. full bibliographic details
  2. a statement that permission has been agreed

The attribution can either be provided:

  1. in full within the exact context in which the image is used (e.g. on a PowerPoint slide, underneath the image on a webpage.
  2. in a list of attributions at the end of your PowerPoint presentation, essay, thesis, webpage
  3. in the image properties (within the copyright field) for images used in web pages.

Example attribution: Dyce, K.M. (2010) “Figure 23.26” from Dyce, K.M., Sack, W.O. and Wensing, C.J.G., Textbook of veterinary anatomy, p. 607, Saunders/Elsevier. (Permission to reuse granted from publisher).

Example attribution of CC image: Copyright Alina Zienowicz. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence from Wikimedia.

Creative Commons have issued guidance on 'best practices for attribution', which give further information about how to attribute images correctly.

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