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Visual Resources: Information and Resources for Faculty

Digital Images, Copyright and Educational Instruction

Please Remember...

Here's what to keep in mind when using images downloaded from the internet (including from ARTstor)

  • You should ALWAYS credit the source of your images. (See the Image Citation page for help).
  • If possible, find out if the owner/creator of an image states how their image can be used.
  • Whenever possible, ask the copyright holder for permission and keep a record of this correspondence.


Under Fair Use Guidelines, professors may...

  • Display images for face-to-face teaching, research & scholarly activities at a non-profit educational institution.
  • Compile images for display for review over a secure network (such as Blackboard, Moodle or MDID) for students enrolled in the course.

but they cannot...

  • Publish these images in digital or analog publications (including public websites—even if for educational purposes) without proper copyright clearance. When permission cannot be found, consult the Best Practices and Fair Use Resources listed on this page.


Under Fair Use Guidelines, students may...

  • Use images in course assignments such as a term paper, thesis or poster as per their degree fulfillment requirements.
  • Publicly display images incorporated in academic work when associated with courses in which they are enrolled.
  • Retain work in personal portfolios for use in graduate school or employment applications, for example.

but they cannot...

  • Publish these images in digital or analog publications (including public websites—even without commercial context) without proper copyright clearance. When in doubt, consult the Best Practices and Fair Use Resources listed on this page.

Fair Use Best Practices for Instructors

Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

Association of Research Libraries (ARL)

"The mission of academic and research librarians is to enable teaching, learning, and research. 1 (This code was developed by and for academic and research librarians. While some of the ideas and principles in the code may be helpful to librarians in other contexts, any reference to "librarians" in this document refers to academic and research librarians, not to all librarians.) Along with serving current faculty, researchers, and students (especially graduate students), these librarians also serve the general public, to whom academic and research libraries are often open. Finally, academic and research librarians are committed to faculty, researchers, and students of the future, who depend on the responsible collection, curation, and preservation of materials over time." (January 2012)

Coordinators: Association of Research Libraries; Center for Social Media, School of Communication, American University; Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law, American University

Endorsed by: American Library Association; Association of College and Research Libraries; College Art Association


Visual Resources Association: Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study

Visual Resources Association (VRA)

"The Visual Resources Association, the international organization of image media professionals dedicated to furthering research and education in the field of image management, has released a Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study. The Statement describes six uses of copyrighted still images that the VRA believes fall within the U.S. doctrine of fair use. The six uses are: 1) preservation (storing images for repeated use in a teaching context and transferring images to new formats); 2) use of images for teaching purposes; 3) use of images (both large, high-resolution images and thumbnails) on course websites and in other online study materials; 4) adaptations of images for teaching and classroom work by students; 5) sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study; and 6) reproduction of images in theses and dissertations." (December 2011)

Endorsed by: College Art Association


AAMD Policy on the Use of "Thumbnail" Digital Images in Museum Online Initiatives

Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD)

"The principal purpose of art museums is education. While the purpose remains the same, the means and methods of accomplishing this goal continue to evolve, nowhere more so than with respect to the internet. In particular, the need for the availability of scholarly materials on the internet grows in importance as use of the internet escalates. While acknowledging that the technology of electronic information changes and transforms on an almost daily basis, this dynamic growth demonstrates the need for the application of basic principles so that the integrity of the image, the interests of museums and the publics they serve and the rights of the artist can all be harmonized. Integral to the museum's accomplishment of its mission to educate is the statutory right of fair use embodied in United States copyright law. AAMD reaffirms the critical importance of this legal exception to the missions of its members and believes that the application of fair use to internet media can be enhanced through reasonable guidelines to be established and followed by art museums." (January 19, 2011)


Well-intentioned Practice for Putting Digitized Collections of Unpublished Materials Online

Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)

"The primary responsibilities of cultural materials repositories - stewardship and support for research and learning - require us to provide access to materials entrusted to our care. This document establishes a reasonable community of practice that increases and significantly improves access to collections of unpublished materials by placing them online for the purpose of furthering research and learning. Although it promotes a well-intentioned, practical approach to identifying and resolving rights issues that is in line with professional and ethical standards, note that this document does not concern itself with what individuals who access particular items may do with them. While the document was developed with US law in mind, it is hoped that the spirit of the document will resonate in non-US contexts."

Endorsed by: Art Libraries Society of North America; Joint National Committee on Archives, Libraries and Museums; Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association; RLG Partnership Council; Triangle Research Libraries Network


Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry

Center for Social Media, School of Communication, American University,Washington DC; The Poetry Foundation

"This code of best practices helps poets understand when they and others have the right to excerpt, quote and use copyrighted material in poetry. To create this code, poets came together to articulate their common expectations, facilitated by Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media; Katharine Coles, director of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute at the Poetry Foundation; Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law in the Washington College of Law at American University; and Jennifer Urban, Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley."


Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-Related Materials

Dance Heritage Coalition, Washington DC

"This Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-related Materials, produced by the Dance Heritage Coalition, clarifies what librarians, archivists, curators, and others working with dance-related materials currently regard as a reasonable application of the Copyright Act's fair use doctrine, where the use of copyrighted materials is essential to significant cultural missions and institutional goals."

Endorsed by: Congress on Research in Dance; Dance critics Association; Dance Films Association; National Dance Education Organization; Society of Dance History Scholars; Theatre Library Association (as of April 2011)


Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use

National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture

"Documentary filmmakers have created, through their professional associations, a clear, easy to understand statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use. Fair Use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law. In fact, it is what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright."

Endorsed by: Arts Engine; Bay Area Video Coalition; CINE; Doculink; JOOST; Kartemquin Films; National Video Resources; P.O.V./American Documentary; University Film and Video Association; Women Make Movies


Fair Use Principles for User Generated Video Content

Center for Social Media, School of Communications, American University

"Online video hosting services like YouTube are ushering in a new era of free expression online. By providing a home for "user-generated content" (UGC) on the Internet, these services enable creators to reach a global audience without having to depend on traditional intermediaries like television networks and movie studios. The result has been an explosion of creativity by ordinary people, who have enthusiastically embraced the opportunities created by these new technologies to express themselves in a remarkable variety of ways."

Endorsed by: Electronic Frontier Foundation ; Center for Social Media, School of Communications, American University; Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law; American University; Public Knowledge; Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School; ACLU of Northern California (as of April 2011)


Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law, American University

"This document is a code of best practices that helps creators, online providers, copyright holders, and others interested in the making of online video interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances."


Best Practices in the Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials in Music Scholarship

American Musicological Society

"This document was written over a period of several years by an ad hoc committee of AMS Council, and formally adopted by the Board of Directors in March 2010."

Instructional Designer

Resources @ CCA



VoiceThread is a web-based application that enables instructors and students to upload images, video, or documents and then record and add audio, video, or text comments. Comments create a timeline for each frame which becomes an engaging asynchronous conversation. It's perfect for peer interaction, collaborative projects, iterative online critiques, or "flipping" your classroom!

Get started by logging in with your CCA credentials at

These VoiceThreads will help you understand how to get started in VoiceThread:

Need more help with VoiceThread? Here you can find some guides to help you out.

Explain Everything

annotating a poem in Explain Everything

Explain Everything is a virtual whiteboard that allows recording, annotation, drawing, image manipulation, and more. It's an app that can be used to create multimedia demonstrations of virtually anything, from grammar to design patterns to mechanics. Many educators see it as a go-to tool for providing vivid explanations.

Check out Explain Everything.