Skip to Main Content

Fair Use and Creative Commons for Images


Welcome to this guide for fair use and copyright for images. While this guide was designed for folks who frequently make and use images (those working in art, design, or visual communications disciplines), we hope that this content will be accessible to anyone who uses images--which is to say, everyone

For those who aren't as familiar with the topic, we hope you'll take away the following:

  • A solid foundation in the basic tenets of copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons licenses, and the ways in which these function in theory and in practice;
  • A broad understanding of the purpose and application of Creative Commons licenses, and the ability to approach open image collections with an understanding your needs and the tool’s capacity to meet those needs;
  • Enough confidence to make smart choices regarding your image use and reuse, enough information to know that it's a complex topic, and enough support to always ask questions..

For those who are versed in the topic, you might take the following in addition to the earlier points:

  • A nuanced and more detailed understanding of the interaction between the history and purpose of copyright and the application of fair use;
  • A wider awareness of topics related to copyright including moral rights, and the ethical use and reuse of images (and when those issues are more important than copyright or fair use);
  • How Creative Commons licenses function as a readable text, a legal agreement, and machine-readable code.

And remember that if you ever have a question regarding your image use, you can always contact your friendly neighborhood librarian! 

The information in this guide is intended for informational and education purposes. That means it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, consider contacting the Ohio Bar Association.

Stay current

If you want to hear the latest in copyright and fair use challenges and cases related to visual media, take a look at the following articles: