How to search for images to use in research papers and blog posts

When using another person’s image, be sure to provide credit to the original source. (Credit: Joanjoc)

When using another person’s image, be sure to provide credit to the original source. (Credit: Joanjoc)

Students who want to add images to their research papers and portfolio examples must be aware of the rules about copyright. When creating web-based content your image search will be easier now that Getty Images has made thousands of their photos available for free. You can even use the images when creating a blog post should you be so inclined. It’s important that students know the rules associated with taking images from the web and using them in their own work. Here’s the run-down on how things stand today.

Image search gets easier

Many students maintain a blog and website where they can promote their work. It’s always nice to have professional quality images to add to the sites’ appeal. In March 2014, Getty Images announced that it would make 35 million images available for free. There are a few conditions, however. The use of the image must be non-commercial and you have to embed the image with a special code.

Why would Getty suddenly decide to make so many images available for free? Because it can’t fight the tide of people taking images for use without permission. At least by making the images available with an embed code Getty can gather data about how and where the images were used.

Olivier Laurent described how to get the images in a March 5, 2014 article for the British Journal of Photography,Getty Images makes 35 million images free to use.”

What you do to get your image is to visit Getty Images’ library of content and search for the image that you want. When you find the image, copy the HTML embed code that goes with it. You will paste this code into your web page.

“Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website,” Laurent explained.

Fair Use

The intent of Fair Use is to allow the use of copyrighted materials within an educational setting.

Donna L. Ferullo, Elizabeth Angeli and Jeremy Tirrell at the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University outlined a few in “Strategies for Fair Use” on October 7, 2013.

The writers stressed that Fair Use strategies are general, not specific. Fair Use is determined on a case-by-case basis using four factors:

  • What is the purpose of the use?
  • What is the nature of the copyrighted work?
  • How much of the work will be used?
  • What is the market effect on the original work of the use?

Typically, students and instructors are able to use copyrighted materials for free if the use is limited to non-commercial, educational or research. Because facts cannot be copyrighted, they fall easily under Fair Use. Creative works, however, such as art, music and photography, may require permission in order to be used.

The less of the material you use the better. As for market effect, the authors said, “Fair use is more likely to apply when the new use is available for a limited time to a small group of people. The broader the distribution of the new use of the work, the more potential there is for the market of the original work to be impacted.”

Going public

What happens if you want to publish your work on a blog or website? Once your work goes public, you will be subject to copyright law. If you have any doubts about the images, then replace them with those that:

  • you have created yourself from scratch
  • you have purchased the right to use

On December 11, 2013, Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon updated its guide, “Copyright Considerations for Student Work.”

When posting your project to a public forum such as a website they advised, “BEFORE you decide to place a project out on the open web, get permission for each image, song, or portion thereof that you have incorporated into your work.”

It doesn’t matter that your material is being posted for free. The fact that you aren’t selling it makes no difference. You still get much permission to publicly display any image or creative work that is not owned by you.

Learn more about copyright

When it comes to issues related to copyright, be sure to do your research. Here are a few sites that can help you out.

Columbia University Libraries: Copyright Advisory Office []

Question Copyright {]

Wikimedia Commons []

Creative Commons []

Where do you get images for your school projects? Tell us in the comments below.

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