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Locating Images

A guide on how to locate images within our databases.

What is copyright?

If you need information on copyright laws and copyright compliance before implementing copyrighted images into your work, there are several sources available.

  • Copyright research guide on the Pfeiffer Library website: It contains information on the basics of copyright, fair use, what materials are protected by copyright, and how to avoid copyright infringement in your own work.
  • This is the official website of the United States Copyright Office.  It contains downloadable publications on basic copyright laws, compliance, rulemakings, regulations, and copyright registration processes, called "Circulars.".  The link takes you to the main page with information on copyright law.  From there, you can access other information about copyright at the top of the page, under "Law and Guidance."  You can view their first publication on copyright basics here.  It serves as a good introduction for those unfamiliar with copyright laws in the United States.

Copyright Compliance with Images

Images are one of the many items protected by U.S. copyright law because they fit under the category of "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works" (U.S. Copyright Office, 1).  If you want to use an image in your research, you must properly comply with U.S. copyright law.  To use a copyrighted image, you must do one of the following:

  • Seek permission from the copyright owner.  A copyright owner has the authority to allow activities that would normally violate copyright law (U.S. Copyright Office, 2019).  When asking for permission, you want to include information about the work you want to use, the original author, and how you will use the item.  It is also a good idea to include your name and contact information as well as the organization with whom you are associated.  It is recommended that you contact the copyright owner as early as possible (U.S. Copyright Office, 2017).
  • Check if your use of the image falls under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law.  You can get more information on the clause from the Fair Use Index published by the U.S. Copyright Office.  It is a database that makes the principles and practices of "fair use" understandable to the public by providing a list of court case rulings related to fair use.  You can search the database by category and by use type.

To search the Fair Use Index:

  1. Select the jurisdictions you would like to search by checking off the boxes.
  2. Select a category to search by selecting the boxes related to your topic.  Categories you might want to use when considering copyright use of images are "Computer program," "Internet/digitization," "Painting/drawing/graphic," "Photograph," "Sculpture," and "Unpublished" (U.S. Copyright Office, 2020).
  3. Search the results below for the scenario that best matches the image you would like to use.  The search results display the court case, year of occurrence, court, jurisdiction, category, and whether or not fair use was found for the case.  If you click on a case, it will open a PDF document with details about the case and explains why (or why not) fair use was found in the case.  You can view a sample case from the index here.

U.S. Copyright Fair Use Index

fair use index


If you need more information on how to obtain permission, you can access Circular 16A on obtaining permission for copyrighted items here.



Copyright with Google Images

If you are using items from Google Images, you can use the "advanced search" option to filter your results to images that follow specific copyright policies.  You can also get more information about using items on Google Images on their website.


Google Images Advanced Search Page

google images adv search