My class spent some time putting together timelines of distance education. They also searched for images to represent the events they chose to include on their timelines. Some cited their images fully, some cited them to “Google Images,” and others didn’t cite them at all. This brings up a teachable moment to talk about images, fair use, copyright, and Creative Commons licensing. I’m encouraging them to dig a bit deeper into what can and can’t legally be done with the images you find all over the web.
Images – Copyright and Use
First off, your best rule of thumb should be to always presume that anything you find using a plain Google image search is copyrighted with all rights reserved. While you can use these images in your work as a student (cited appropriately), you likely can’t use them in your work outside class unless your work is teaching at a non-for-profit institution and even then Fair Use + the TEACH act doesn’t make it automatically okay. Once you enter the realm of a for-profit organization the doctrine of fair use is less likely to apply if regular “all rights reserved” copyright is used by the image owner. For a good overview of copyright I recommend the Columbia University Copyright Center and for updates you can follow its director Kenneth Crews on Twitter @kcrews.
The good news is, there are a lot of free Creative Commons licensed images out there. AJ George offers some suggestions on finding Creative Commons licensed images with Google. Fotor is a new-to-me free stock photo site, offers images with Creative Commons licenses and a tip sheet on citing CC licensed photos in your work. You can also search MorgueFile, everystockphoto, and Compflight to find CC licensed images that can be used for commercial and non-commercial projects.