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Images, especially photographs, are the intellectual property of the creators of those images. Photographers own the rights to their photographs, artists own the rights to their paintings and digital artists own the rights to their works. This system of rights is legally outlined in the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, to ensure that artists gain compensation for their work and can afford to continue creating as a livelihood. U.S. copyright law and intellectual property laws also govern the use of images.
Learn more about copyright: Copyright Information and Resources
How does this apply to me?
Practically, this means that we may not simply save an image off the Internet, take it out of an e-mail, scan it out of a brochure or otherwise obtain an image and use it for promotional purposes. Just because we can obtain the image doesn’t mean that we are legally allowed to use it.
There are educational use provisions, but these cover only the use of items for instructional purposes, not the use of images by an educational institution for promotional purposes.
Any image, therefore, that we use on the website or in brochures, bookmarks or other informative or promotional materials is governed by international copyright laws and may not be used without the express permission of the image’s creator unless it is in the public domain and/or alternative rights have been applied, such as a Creative Commons license.
I have Microsoft clip art on my computer. May I use that?
The clip art installed with Microsoft products has permissions limited to the use of those images in the products they’re packaged with. When you install and use the software, you’ve agreed to the end user license agreement (EULA) and the guidelines listed in it. If you build a brochure or flier in Word or PowerPoint and use the clip art in that document, you’re just fine. But it’s illegal to then transfer that image to the website without arranging to pay for the rights to use that image in a different medium.
My friend e-mailed me a great picture. May I use that?
No, you may not use a picture a friend has e-mailed to you unless your friend is the one who created the image, or took the picture, and is giving you permission to use that image on the website.
They’ll never know.
There have been instances, some very recently, when copyright holders have contacted the district to gain compensation for illegal use of their images. There are loopholes and ways to get around the laws, but that’s much more difficult than following the rules.
This sounds complicated.
And it is. However, there are ways to easily find images to use legally.
Creative Commons (CC) licensing of works has been adopted by many artists and photographers so they can share their work with a variety of licenses instead of sticking to the “all rights reserved” model of traditional copyright. Most Creative Commons licenses allow for the free use of images noncommercially (meaning you’re not making money off their use).
The most open license, the one that’s easiest to use, is “Attribution.” This license states in simplest terms that if you want to use it, you simply need to attribute the image to its creator. The creator of the image can determine how you are to cite him or her; however, many don’t provide this information.
On a Web page, a safe method of citation is to add a photo credit to the image’s alt text. For example, if you used a photo by John Doe that was posted on Flickr (see below for more information about using Flickr to find images), your alt text might be “photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/JohnDoe.” You can see a similar example on this page — put your cursor over the image at the top to see the citation.
See more about Creative Commons licenses and CC license explanations on Flickr.
Fortunately, there are many ways to find images you may legally use on your Web pages. Those listed below are but a few.
Public domain refers to works that are not protected by copyright and are publicly available. They may be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime without permission, license or royalty payment. A work may enter the public domain because the term of copyright protection has expired, the work is not eligible to be copyrighted or the work was created by the federal government.
The US Government has a number of sites that catalog and share public domain images. Here's just a sampling:
You can also find a number of public domain photos archived on Flickr.com.
The online photography giant Flickr hosts images for millions of photographers, and photographers can assign Creative Commons licenses or release their images into the public domain for others to use. Some images are still “all rights reserved,” and if you try to save them, you’ll get a blank image. You can, however, download and use images that have permissions granted, but it’s up to you to make sure you’re following that image’s license. It’s polite (and rewarding for the photographers) to send them a message letting them know that you appreciate their work and that you’ve used it in your project. Most of the images on this page were found through Flickr.
One caveat here — some users may have uploaded images to which others hold copyrights, so use your best judgment when choosing images. A trademarked logo like DCCCD’s, for example, is not Creative Commons-licensed, but it’s possible that a user could upload our logo and claim it as their own.
When you go to Google or other search engines and search for images, those images are presented by the search engine for informational purposes and link back to the original image. Licensing is not typically indicated by an image search unless you explicitly indicate it. On Google, go to Advanced Image Search and under “Usage rights” choose “labeled for reuse.”
More on Google advanced image search.
Google's regular Advanced Search is not limited to images, and returns results for everything on the Internet. If you want to broaden your search scope, you can access similar options there by clicking on "Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more" and choosing one of the options under Usage Rights.
A free site, Stock.xchng, has searchable, tagged images provided for use by members. These images may have varying rights assigned to them, so be sure to check the rights before you use them.
College Graphic Artists and Photographers
Most DCCCD locations have onsite graphic artists and photographers trained to create exceptional images, or obtain them, for use by the colleges. We recommend that you ask them for assistance as early as possible when you begin a Web project so they can help you plan for your needs.
If you’ll be needing images frequently, or need a lot of different images, you can purchase images from rights-management services such as iStockphoto or Shutterstock. Web images are often the cheapest options on these sites, as images needed for the Web have a lower image resolution than images for print. Additionally, the images are tagged with words and phrases to help you search for what you want.
Most of these sites, however, limit each purchased instance of an image to one application — for example, one placeholder on one Web page. If you want to use the same image in a flier or e-mail newsletter, you’ll have to purchase a copy of the image for each use. Carefully read the rights statement for each image, usually presented right before you purchase it.
Taking Pictures Yourself
If you want to venture out and take photos for use yourself, be aware that people may not want photographs of themselves or their property used in publications and can sue you for unauthorized use. To protect the district, photo releases are required for people (other than DCCCD employees) who are photographed for district projects. District release forms are available at the bottom of our Style Guide page. If you have questions about photo releases, contact Kathy Cook, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hiring a Photographer
You could always contract a freelance photographer to take pictures. You’d have to negotiate the rights to those images, and the cost for the shoot with the photographer. This is the most customizable, yet most expensive, way to get the images you want.
So you’ve found the perfect image for your site — now what?
The district website has image size standards to maintain a coherent look and feel. Images must be 200x160 pixels at 72 DPI or 160x200 pixels at 72 DPI for most page layouts. Images can be resized using image editing software, but be sure you resize the images proportionally and do not skew or alter the look of the image.
If you have any questions regarding image use on the district website, contact the Internet Publishing Team at email@example.com.