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Art Research Guide

Using Images Without Violating Copyright

What is the purpose of use? Would the image be published? To be posted online?
Would it be used commercially? Or non-profit? Classroom use only?


Image downloaded from the Internet:

Does the website you downloaded the image from allow you to use the image for your purpose? You can find out copyright status by checking their "Terms of Use" or "About This Site" page. If you are not sure, contact the author of the website.

Is it in copyright? Ask the Genie.
Consult the Copyright Genie


Image scanned from a book/pubication:

Making digital images from a publication is only allowed under Fair Use of the U.S. Copyright Law. Make sure to write down the detailed information of the publication, then cite the source that you have scanned. 

  Check if your purpose of using the image is under Fair Use:

The Fair Use App

Fair Use Check List

Fair Use Evaluator


See also Understanding Image Licenses

How to Cite an Image

Just like you cite texual source, you need to cite the source for any image in your paper, thesis or presentation.

When citing a digital image of an artwork or highly creative work, be aware that you need to cite both the physical object information, and the digital image source. The basic information for an artwork image should include:

- Artist's name
- Title of the work
- Date of creation
- Location or repository (museum or site where the work is housed)
- ID number (museum inventory number, etc.), if applicable
- Digital image source (name and URL of the Website, database, publication and publisher for a scanned image; photographer if applicable, etc.)
- Date of access
- Copyright information for the digital image (use the copyright symbol (c) if applicable)

* The bold letters indicate the digital image source.

Example (for an image downloaded from the Web or database):

Rousseau, Henri. The Ship in the Storm. 1896. MusÈe de l'Orangerie, Paris, France. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from ARTstor (, LESSING_ART_10310751655.

Example (for an image scanned from a publication):

Rousseau, Henri. The Ship in the Storm. 1896. Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris, France. 
Fresches, Claire et al. Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 2006, pg. 232. Print.

Full citations include the work's dimensions, material or medium, country of origin and provenance. Check also with your instructor which writing style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) is preferred for your citations.


For moving image and sound citations:

See Audiovisual Citation: BUFVC Guidlines For Referencing Moving Image and Sound