© Copyright

The world of copyright is fraught with difficulties that I do not pretend to fathom. Currently, I am interested only in the copyright status and fair use of web images. If an image is acknowledged as public domain, then it can be used freely with appropriate credit: perhaps the credit is not legally required, but it is certainly courteous and useful. Since an image can be regarded as a complete work in itself, probably one can never invoke fair use for an image as one can do for short quotes from written texts. It seems to me that fair use is pretty much useless for images.

Beyond legal requirements certain points, I think are clear. An image is most useful if its provenance and context are known. Thus an image posted on web ideally should be reasonably fully documented by the poster. If it is an original posting, it would be good to post some of the characteristics of the image: i.e., date of creation, authors, qualities of the image, copyright status, permissions, etc. A reposting of downloaded image should give credit to the original source and at least link to the image characteristics. For trivial diagrams, probably such elaboration is unnecessary.


  1. NASA and Copyright NASA images are public domain, unless otherwise noted.

  2. United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress Presumably the authoritative page for US copyright law. One interesting item seems clear: copyright on a graphical or sculptural work belongs to the author and is not transferred by simple sale of the original work (Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts). Copyright includes the right to distribute copies. This seems to imply that mere images of historical paintings, reliefs, sculptures that intend only convey the original artist's intent are public domain since the copyright holder is long deceased and in fact in many cases no copyright law existed at the time of the author. WebMuseum, Paris concurs, but states that it is not easy to decide if the photographer has not added his/her own quality to the image and so made it copyrighted.

    Also even if an image is not copyrighted, the poster or the owner of the original work may feel agrieved if the image is reposted. If one can't stand the possible feeling of grievance, it is best not to use such images.

  3. United States Government works and copyright

  4. University of Nevada copyright site There are links to other sites. One thing is clear, faculty and students are on their own in the world of copyright. UNLV will not protect or defend them. (I wonder what the difference is between protect and defend?)

  5. WebMuseum, Paris Their opinion on copyright laws.

  6. Wikipedia: Copyright

  7. 10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained by Brad Templeton A handy reference for copyright. Actually there are more than 10 myths explained now, but Brad Templeton explains that the title is too famous to change.