Images, film, and music

Determining how and when you can re-use multimedia materials such as images, film and music can be especially challenging. Just because you find something on the “open web” doesn’t mean it’s free of copyright restrictions. On the contrary, the safer assumption is that almost everything you encounter on the web is protected by copyright, as are most things you find in the Library that weren’t published more than 95 years ago.

In deciding how you can reuse media you find online or in the Library, the following resources may be useful:

  • The Visual Resources Association maintains Copyright Resources (especially the Statement on Fair Use) and an Image Calculator designed for use by teachers and students in higher education.
  • Fair use permits some unlicensed uses of in-copyright works. Check out our fair use page to learn more about your fair use rights.
  • The public domain is comprised of works free of any copyright constraints. Works in the public domain are free for all to use for any purpose. To find public domain material, you can start with our page Collections of Public Domain Works.
  • Works with open licenses (such as Creative Commons (CC) licenses) can be used freely as long as you follow the conditions of the license. Find CC-licensed work using their CC search engine.
  • Library licensed works are provided to faculty and students to support research, teaching and learning. In using these resources, you have to consider copyright, but you also need to be aware of the terms of use we have with the database vendor. If you have questions about what’s permitted by a particular database, ask a librarian for help.

Many sites offer stock images, music, and other media on a “free” or “royalty-free” basis. Be careful, however, as these sites also use license terms to limit what users can do without paying a fee. Read the fine print and ensure your use fits within the terms permitted by the license. Also, look out for dodgy sites that may be scraping the web and posting images they do not own.