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Image Resources at PCC: Copyright Info

Get Started: Copyright and Images

Copyright protection covers photographs, graphics, cartoons, music, movie clips, text and more in both print and digital formats. Generally, copyright provides the author or the creator of the work control of the use, alteration, copying, distribution, performance, and sale of the work. Copyright is automatic. Neither publication nor registration is essential for a work to be copyright protected, even if no © notice or warning is displayed. 

4 ways you can use digital images without violating copyright:

1. Use Pima Community College's subscriptions to image databases (links to databases are in the box on the right).

2. Use images found through a Creative Commons Search (see Creative Commons box on the right).

3. Fair Use. The Fair use doctrine permits reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works without the permission of the owner of the work under certain conditions for limited purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Fair use depends on a reasoned and balanced application of four factors.

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether it is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes

  • the nature of the copyrighted material

  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole

  • the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted material

Weighing the Fair use factors is often difficult and at times subjective. In general, Fair use only permits use of small parts of copyrighted materials during a limited period of time.  For more information about Fair Use consult PCC's webpage on Copyright. To evaluate Copyright Fair Use you can utilize Pima Community College’s Copyright Fair Use Checklist.

4. Public Domain. The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws (such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws). The copyright may have expired on these works or they may have been produced by the U.S. government, so the public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission. To assist you in determining if something is in the public domain, you may want to consult Cornell University's Copyright Term and Public Domain webpage.

Note: for instructors wanting to use digital materials in online courses, please consult PCC's webpage on Copyright for information on the Teach Act.

Image Database Subscriptions at PCC

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a group of licenses which enable use of many online images, videos, music and other digital materials. It is a great resource for academic institutions as most works covered by the license allow for use in an educational setting without the need to contact the copyright holder. There is also a Creative Commons license that allows use for any purpose.  Note that when using a work covered by Creative Commons you must always credit the work.

To search for images covered by Creative Commons licenses use the CC Search