Tag Archives: images

Fair Use & Figures: When Is It OK? (Part Two: Fair Use)

Fair Use?

Point 2: Is it fair use?

In part one of this post on using research tables and figures in social media, the focus was on, “Let’s find something that isn’t copyrighted, and just use that, because we know that will be safe” (sort of). But sometimes what you want is new, not old, and from a copyrighted publication, not something open access. When that happens, what do you do? Can you still use it?

It started with Andrew’s question, but he sure isn’t the only person asking!

The answer is (again) it depends. And, to be honest about it, the “it depends” is a whole lot messier. The idea of “fair use” makes the idea of “copyright” look like child’s play. As usual, I am not a lawyer (IANAL), so take the information here at your own peril, and don’t go quoting me to your own lawyers. That said, I’ll be giving references to a lot of information that IS from lawyers, so refer people to the original sources whenever possible!

This is a question that comes up a lot. Even more often, I suspect, it doesn’t come up at all when it ought to, because someone assumed it was alright and didn’t think about it more deeply. I may have even done that myself (and I’m afraid to go back and look too closely at my blogposts).

WHY ARE FIGURES DIFFERENT?

The shortest version I’ve found explaining why “fair use” for research figures from articles are DIFFERENT from other images is this snippet from Scholarly Publishing @ MIT Libraries:

“Note: an image or figure would commonly be considered a work in and of itself, weighing against fair use; or could summarize the key point of an article, also weighing against fair use.” Reuse of figures, images, and other content in theses http://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/copyright-publishing-guide-for-students/reuse-of-figures-images-and-other-content-in-theses/

That’s the gist of it. Applying “fair use” to reusing content from a larger work depends on four factors:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
US Copyright Office: Copyright: Fair Use: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

The point from MIT regards the 3rd factor, “amount and substantiality.” If the image is considered a work independent of the article, then copying it is copying a complete work instead of a percentage, and that is not OK. If the figure is considered a fair distillation of the complete article, then that could be considered equivalent to copying the whole article. To be allowed to use something under “Fair Use” claims, it is recommended to meet all FOUR of the four factors: no money, factual or data-focused content, a tiny bit of it (insignificant amount), and little to no impact on sales of the original. If any of those are iffy, you’ve got a problem.

In a recently published article in the research journal CIRCULATION, the editors of the journal attempted a randomized controlled trial to test the success or failure of social media in promoting readership of articles. How did they do this? Well, they posted randomly selected articles to Facebook and Twitter, but a bit part of how they posted included (you guessed it!) FIGURES. For exactly the same reasons we are NOT supposed to use them, technically speaking.

“However, our social media postings were comprehensive in that they focused on the main message of the article and included a key figure from the article. Thus, it is possible that social media users did not find it necessary to access the full article and therefore experienced increased awareness of the article but not online access of the primary source. This raises the possible concern that social media could reduce the potential reach of original published research as demonstrated by altmetrics.” Fox CS, Bonaca MA, Ryan JJ, Massaro JM, Barry K, Loscalzo J. A Randomized Trial of Social Media From Circulation. Circulation 2015; 131: 28-33. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/131/1/28.full

In that test, it was the editors of the journal posting the figures, and even then, they questioned the utility and benefit. A big part of the question, which they highlight in that snippet, was whether it is better to have awareness of the article and its findings, or actual readers. This assumes that people who click through to the article actually read it, which is itself questionable.

So, that’s the short view. Just to round it out, here are a few more pieces relating to this topic.

WHAT IF I DRAW MY OWN FIGURE?

A common recommendation is to redraw the figure. Annoying, time-consuming, but supposedly legal, most of the time, as long as the content is primarily data (since data can’t be copyrighted). Indeed, this is recommended by many experts as THE solution to this problem.

Q: I want to use a figure from another thesis or dissertation from my group. Do I need to ask permission?
A: “Usually. The student who wrote the thesis or dissertation owns the copyright and must be asked for permission. Figures are generally considered works in and of themselves and do not usually constitute a small portion of the work. See “How to Use Copyrighted Materials” for more information. If, however, the figure is a simple representation of data, you may not need permission. Data cannot be copyrighted, so non-creative ways of representing the data are generally considered fair use.” Copyright Frequently Asked Questions | Michigan Tech Graduate School http://www.mtu.edu/gradschool/administration/academics/thesis-dissertation/copyright/faq/

It depends on who you ask, though. I don’t know the court law on this, but I’ve found recommendations on both sides. Overwhelmingly, what I’ve found it people recommending to redraw the figure. And then I found this, from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

“Redrawing a figure does not change the Fair Use analysis; the figure cannot be used without permission just because it is redrawn.” ACM Guidance for Authors on Fair Use http://www.acm.org/publications/guidance-for-authors-on-fair-use

WHAT IF I JUST GO AHEAD AND USE IT? NO ONE WILL CARE, RIGHT?

Another common approach (probably the one I am most guilty of myself) is to assume that you aren’t important enough to bother with, or that no one will notice you did it, or that if they do notice all that will happen is they ask you to take it out. I haven’t even attempted to figure out how often this happens. The gist of the idea is that, while it may not be strictly legal, it IS fairly common practice, and can be a win-win for each side (as long as you are saying nice things, anyway).

The “Win-Win” Argument:

“Most authors will probably be happy that their results are disseminated, and reuse is likely to lead to more people reading the full paper and citing the work.”
Martin Fenner. Why can’t I reuse these tables and figures? Gobbledygook (PLoS Blogs) 2010.
http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/2010/09/30/why-cant-i-reuse-these-tables-and-figures/

The “Standard Practice” Argument:

“Posting figures from papers “was something we all did, all the science blogs, and I had been doing it since I started the blog. I always thought I was doing a public service, I wasn’t plagiarizing or claiming it was my own data.”” Andrea Gawrylewski. For blogger: A threat, then an apology. The Scientist May 2, 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/25066/title/For-blogger–A-threat–then-an-apology/

So, it’s fine, right? Uh, not so much. If you are doing this on a work related blog or for your organization, it is awfully risky, since they can be held liable, which is a real can of worms. If you are only doing this on your personal blog, and it is made clear that these are your words and actions and not to reflect on your employer, … it’s your decision.

WHAT IF THEY PULL OUT THE BIG GUNS?

There are publishers who have (or will) pull out the big guns. Yes, usually, even if they notice, they’ll just ask you to take it down, to “cease and desist,” but there is no guarantee. The best known case in science blogging of use of a figure gone wrong actually centered around a PhD student here at the University of Michigan, Shelley Batts, back in 2007.

“When Shelley Batts wrote up a report on an article about antioxidants in fruits, she never expected to get contacted by the copyright police, but that’s exactly what happened.” Munger, Dave. Is reprinting a figure fair use? http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/04/26/is-reprinting-a-figure-fair-us/

In Shelley’s words:

“In short, I was threatened with legal action if I didn’t take it down immediately. I used a panel a figure, and a chart, from over 10+ figures in the paper. I cited and reported everything straight forwardly. I would think they’d be happy to get the press. But alas, no.” Batts, Shelley. When Fair Use Isn’t Fair. http://scienceblogs.com/retrospectacle/2007/04/25/when-fair-use-isnt-fair-1/

The blogosphere went WILD. Some of the issues brought up included that this was government funded research paid for by taxes; the “amount used” argument (since it was such a small fraction, not even a complete image); the stifling impact on science discourse; the chilling of public awareness and policy discussions; and heavily, the critical distinction between “fair use” and being granted permission.

“First, the blogger Batts did not go through the usual process to request permissions to use published material in advance. It is not clear that had this been done that she would have been refused and indeed permission may eventually be extended. … Of course, once the appropriately senior person at Wiley was involved, the situation was resolved. This is not a “win”. This is a “loss” …” DrugMonkey. “This figure is reproduced with permission of the publisher.” https://drugmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/04/26/this-figure-is-reproduced-with-permission-of-the-publisher/

It is easy to find posts about this, but the one that seems to have really tipped the balance was when BoingBoing stepped in.

“This is, of course, bullshit. Reproducing part of a figure in a critical, scholarly essay is so obviously fair use that it hardly bears discussion. Wiley’s lawyers know this. You and I know it too.” Doctorow, Cory. Wiley threatens scientists with copyright law – UPDATED. http://boingboing.net/2007/04/26/wiley-threatens-scie.html

Eventually, it all calmed down, when Shelley was “granted permission” to use the image by the publisher. Many expressed concern that this ended up muddying the waters, that this was and should have been respected as fair use, that the publisher should have acknowledged this was fair use, and that granting permission implies that permission was theirs to grant (permission that is irrelevant in the case of fair use). Shelley was happy – she wasn’t getting sued, and her original blogpost was able to stay (although I can’t find it now, and I don’t know why).

“I was so surprised that anyone would think I was doing science a disservice. Science blogs bring pedantic ‘ivory tower’ knowledge to a completely new audience that would probably never hear about it otherwise. But in the end, I’m glad it happened — and that the entire blogosphere howled.”
Moments in Medicine at Michigan, Summer 2007. http://medicineatmichigan.org/magazine/2007/summer/moments

But the University of Michigan lawyers stated that she had done nothing wrong to begin with. So. Clear as mud, eh?

“Maybe if we weren’t so worried about copyright, we’d be able to report on more research.” Dave Munger, op cit.

Fair Use & Figures: When Is It OK? (Part One: Copyright)

Last week I spent some time in conversations that began with Andrew Maynard’s posting a question to Twitter: “When is it OK to post a figure from a paper in a blog post?”

There were a lot of interesting thoughts and responses (before the conversation detoured off into mac’n’cheese and samurai swords). Things along the lines of, “What!? You mean research figures are different from pictures?” and “Isn’t it OK if you give a citation?” and “Well, my journal won’t allow it, but maybe some others do.” And what did the answer turn out to be? “It depends.” Isn’t that the truth – intellectual property issues always seems to depend on a variety of factors and situations. But answers to the various responses and questions were also sometimes not what was expected.

Does giving a citation to the source make it ok to share? Turns out it is irrelevant, in the sense of what is required legally, although it is expected as part of being active in scholarly culture as a matter of courtesy.

Now, more about posting research figures in blogs. I found quite a lot of information online to help explain part of how this works (or doesn’t). I’ll include small quotations that I found particularly helpful in understanding this better. Please not, IANAL (“I Am Not A Lawyer”!), so hopefully someone with more legal experience will contribute thoughts in the comments or will reply in another post.

“REUSE OF FIGURES, IMAGES, AND OTHER CONTENT”

The absolutely most helpful piece I found was from MIT Libraries.

MIT Libraries, Scholarly Publishing: Reuse of figures, images, and other content in theses http://libraries.mit.edu/scholarly/publishing/copyright-publishing-guide-for-students/reuse-of-figures-images-and-other-content-in-theses/

Please note, this is describing rights to re-use content in THESES, not blogposts, so it might be a little different. The MIT resource emphasized two main points (copyright, and fair use), with a pointed twist (oops, figures ARE different!).

Point 1: Is it copyrighted?

You see, if it isn’t copyrighted, if an image is in the public domain, you don’t have a problem — it is content you can use. That is more likely to apply to items that are quite old, or created by government employees in the performance of their job. But copyright gets complicated. What if the journal is from Australia instead of the United States? Whether or not a piece is copyrighted may change based on the country in which it was created.

Even if it is copyrighted, if it is licensed for open use, you are fine. Probably. OK, I’m going to show an image here that ought to be OK, and hope it really is. This stuff is tricky. If someone complains, I’ll blur out whatever part they are concerned about.

PubMed Example of Research Figure Searching & Display (Neuroinflammation Imaging) PubMed screenshot of:
Benjamin Pulli and John W Chen. Imaging Neuroinflammation – from Bench to Bedside. J Clin Cell Immunol. Author manuscript; available in PMC Dec 16, 2014. Published in final edited form as: J Clin Cell Immunol. 2014; 5: 226. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25525560

This is a screenshot from PubMed. PubMed is an open database developed and created by the US government. I had talked with our lawyers about using screenshots from databases in teaching and blogging about database interfaces. I was told (off the record) that it was probably OK to use the screenshots without asking for permissions as part of fair use. The idea was that even if the database legally has copyright protection for their user interface design (as they most assuredly do), that I am teaching and blogging about it is unlikely to impact on their sales negatively, which is one of the markers of “Fair Use” assessment. Chances are, if anything, my teaching and blogging about their database would serve as free advertising, increasing awareness and profits rather than reducing them. That assumes, of course, that I am saying good things about them. So, maybe it would be a different matter and not fair use if I was criticizing the database?

PubMed does this nifty thing where you can find images of research figures in the citations, if the original source is an article in PubMed Central, an extension of PubMed’s database that includes open access articles deposited by the publishers. (More info here about how they are different.) For the images displayed as thumbnails in PubMed, if you mouse over them, they get big and beautiful. This is what I’m showing in this screenshot.

This screenshot is of a citation record for an article that is open access and published in PubMed Central. Does the copyright permissions for screenshots in PubMed extend to the content? That this article is open access would mean that the article is copyrighted, but open for people who want to read it, and also available to re-use under specific guidelines. The guidelines given for the article are, “This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.” By the rules, I need to include a full citation with the image. I have done so, both in Flickr, where I put the screenshot, and here in the blogpost. BUT.

PubMed Example of Research Figure Searching & Display (Neuroinflammation Imaging) 2

BUT. But what? But this figure from the open access research article says that a portion of the image was modified from another source, WITH PERMISSION. Does that permission extend to me, since it was in an open access journal? I’m not sure. I’m not sure if I need to get two sets of permission to use this image, or none. Do I need to go back to the original authors of that portion and request permission myself? Do I need to blur out that portion of the image? Or did the process of these authors getting permission to use in an open access journal publication cover subsequent re-use? Do I need to check the policies for the journal where the source image was published? It’s … complicated.

For me, today, I’m electing to go ahead and use the image, trusting and hoping that the permissions cover this use. If someone complains, I will go back and blur out that portion of the image, and then replace it.

Many publishers have processes by which they establish policies that guide whether or not they give permission easily or if you have to jump through hoops or purchase permission. If you want to find out what the policies are for a journal with a figure you’d like to use, the place to check is SHERPA. If you want to know if a journal is open access, the you may want to check the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals).

SHERPA/RoMEO – Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/

DOAJ: http://doaj.org/


Part Two will look more deeply at the idea of Fair Use in using research figures. That’s where it gets really interesting, so stay tuned! For now, I hope you have a better sense of the two-pronged sword of copyright in using research figures:

– Yes, it’s OK to use research figures that are copyright-free, public domain, or open access;
– BUT, sometimes those categories are less than straightforward.

Finding & Using Images, Lessons Learned (the Hard Way)

I can talk for a very long time about finding Creative Commons and Public Domain images, and the tricks and troubles associated with doing so. This is going to be an image-heavy words-light post about some of what I’ve learned over the past several years. For the short short version, go right to the bottom for my favorite places to find images to use.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons: New License Chooser

Many people say “Creative Commons” as a one-size-fits-all term for I-can-use-this-picture-without-paying-money-and-not-get-in-legal-trouble. That isn’t what it means. Some people still believe that they can take and use any image on any website. This is not remotely true! I myself use a lot of screenshots, and had some earnest worried talks with University Counsel before starting to do so. Strictly speaking, the screenshots may be a questionable practice from a legal point of view, but it has become common practice and rarely causes a problem as long as the site is open to the public. The caveat? If someone complains, be prepared to take the image down, and apologize.

Most of the images people are thinking of that fall into the safe-to-use category are actually public domain. Creative Commons usually applies when someone made a new image that could be copyrighted and has chosen to give advance permissions for some types of use, but not all. This means you can re-use the images in some ways, but can still get into trouble if you don’t do something they asked (like keep their name with the image) or do something they asked people NOT to do (like rework the image).

The Creative Commons organization has a tool to help people decide what license to choose for their own images. I find that tool very helpful in understanding how the creator of the image was thinking about their own work, and thus allowing me to be more respectful of their stated requirements.

Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/

Choose a License: http://creativecommons.org/choose/

University of Michigan Libraries Research Guides: Creative Commons: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=483716

What is Public Domain?

Public domain basically means when an image or text is not copyrightable. This can be because of who created it, what type of information it includes, or that it used to be copyrighted and is now too old. The best simple overview of this is from Lolly Gasaway.

Lolly Gasaway: When US Works Pass Into the Public Domain: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm

If you want a lot more information about public domain, check out the manifesto, which discusses many of the issues of public domain in the contemporary online environment.

The Public Domain Manifesto: http://www.publicdomainmanifesto.org/node/8

I Can Use This Because It’s Old … Maybe

Historic images are often considered to be public domain, but … not always. If the photograph of the original image is copyrighted, then it doesn’t matter how old the original was. If I went to a museum, they probably won’t allow me to take pictures. If they do, and I take a picture of a painting there (like this picture of St. Apollonia from the University of Michigan Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry), there are issues with (a) did I have permission to take the image, (b) did I have permission to share the image, (c) did I give permission to use or share the image, and so forth.

Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry: St. Apollonia

OR (and this is important), I could follow the assumptions of the Wikimedia Commons team:

The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that “faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain, and that claims to the contrary represent an assault on the very concept of a public domain”. For details, see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag. This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain.

In that case, a straight-on shot of the complete work is usually considered safe to use. That is also the case for this next image.

This next image is of a Japanese calligraphy created in 1923. In USA law, that would be in the public domain. I found it in Wikimedia Commons, my favorite place to find public domain and creative commons images. Why I like them best is because they give the full provenance (or history) of the image, why they think it is legally ok to use, where they got it, and what license or credit should be given with the image when used.

Example public domain image

From Wikimedia Commons


File:Zen painting and calligraphy on silk signed Hachijûgo (85 year old) Nantembô Tôjû, 1923.jpg: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zen_painting_and_calligraphy_on_silk_signed_Hachij%C3%BBgo_(85_year_old)_Nantemb%C3%B4_T%C3%B4j%C3%BB,_1923.jpg

Because this is considered public domain, there is no license statement provided with it, but if I dig into the information in the image summary, I can find more about where it come from to provide a proper source and attribution. Notice that the image is actually from a book or journal, still in print, and available for purchase. I am sure glad that Wikimedia made the judgment call on this one, because I would not feel safe using it if they had not already established precedent.

Description
English: Zen painting and calligraphy on silk by Nakahara Nantenbo signed “Hachijūgo (85 year old) Nantembō Tōjū”, 1923
Date: 1923
Source: Andon, No. 85, p. 59
Author: Nakahara Nantenbo

Because it is considered public domain, I can do pretty much ANYTHING with it. I can use it in writings or slides, change its format, reprint it as a poster or tshirt and sell it, recolor it, make it 3D, make a parody of it, convert it into music, move it into a virtual world, and so forth. In the image below, I moved it into Second Life, where I made a poster of it for the wall of a memorial for the victims of the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Pic of the day - Sad Face

I Can Use This Because I Made It Different … Sometimes

Here’s a similar example, with important differences.

From Wikimedia Commons

Low-resolution image of Escher’s Relativity print


Escher’s Relativity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Escher%27s_Relativity.jpg

Now this one is from 1953, and is not out of copyright anywhere in the world. Even more confusing, the image is taken directly from Escher’s own official website. How can they get away with this?

“This image is of a drawing, painting, print, or other two-dimensional work of art, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, the person who commissioned the work, or the heirs thereof. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of works of art for critical commentary on
* the work in question,
* the artistic genre or technique of the work of art or
* the school to which the artist belongs
on the English-language Wikipedia, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.”

People love this print, and it has been re-used in many different ways. Here is an example of a couple of avatars wandering around in a 3d replica of the space.

Cool Toys Pic of the day - Primtings Museum

Here is a link to a copyrighted image of a reconstruction of the print as a real world 3d object, made with … LEGOs.

Escher’s “Relativity” in LEGO®: http://www.andrewlipson.com/escher/relativity.html

What makes these ok? They aren’t exactly low-rez images, but what they are is substantially innovative reworkings of the original concept. That can be a tricky point in intellectual property law, so don’t trust on it as a get-out-of-jail-free-card.

I Can Use This Because the Government Made It … Maybe

There is a perception that it is OK to take and use any image on any website that has a government web address (“.gov”). Often that’s pretty close, but again, it is not always true, only sometimes. Sometimes the government uses images made by other people who are not government employees. Rights for those images belong to the person who made them, or to the company they work for. You need to know which, and you usually need to ask first just to be sure. Read the fine print.

“Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. You should read the disclaimers on each site before using these images.” U.S. Government Photos and Images: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml

So, I’m a bit of an astro fan, and just love astronomy images. Here is one from the Hubble telescope, credited to NASA, the European Space Agency, and Hubble themselves.

Cat's Eye Nebula
Cat’s Eye Nebula: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/pr2004027a/
Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: R. Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain) and Z. Tsvetanov (NASA)

If you look at the image on the Hubble site, they give information for how to credit the image, and it isn’t entirely clear on the image page if it is legal to use or not. They do have another page for all their images stating they use Creative Commons licensing requiring attribution.

Hubble: Usage of images, videos and web texts: http://www.spacetelescope.org/copyright/

They actually had a big contest for folk who used or spotted uses of their images in Popular Culture. I won 3rd place for “Weird” with this dress and avatar design, in which the image above (the Cat’s Eye Nebula) became the eyes of the avatar. And this is all perfectly fine and hunky-dory, and I even won copies of some images and videos from them.

Hubble Gown

SEARCHING

There are a TON of places that say they offer a search for images that are creative commons, public domain, or royalty free. Most of them are not actually very safe to use. I’m going to show you several here, with brief comments along the lines of yes, no, maybe so.

CompFight
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
CompFight: http://compfight.com/

MAYBE.
They use the Flickr API to provide an alternate Flickr search experience, powered by ads. Why not just go to Flickr? PS – There are so many other search engines that say they are Creative Commons search engines that are really just using the Flickr API. I am not going to list them all.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Creative Commons: Search: http://search.creativecommons.org/

MAYBE.
“Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.”

Flickr
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Flickr: The Commons: http://www.flickr.com/commons

Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Flickr: Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

CAREFUL! YES &/OR MAYBE
When people search creative commons images in Flickr, they often aren’t aware that there are TWO completely different “Commons” in Flickr. When you search or browse “The Commons” you are getting images from schools, libraries, museums, and other famous and authoritative sources. When you search Flickr’s “Creative Commons” search you are trusting whoever put the image there. Not everyone is equally savvy and responsible.

I once had posted a slidedeck that used images from Flickr’s Creative Commons search. I listed the sources of all the images, with link, and then went back to each Flickr page and posted a thank you for making their image CC-licensed, giving the link to where I used it. One of the posters then commented on my comment, saying, “Don’t thank me! I took the image from [insert here name of most famous newspaper you can think of].” Oh. Uh oh. Oh, no.

Google: Image Search
Creative Commons
Google: Advanced Image Search: https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en&biw=953&bih=787&q=commons&tbm=isch

Close up:
Creative Commons

SOMETIMES, (BUT MOSTLY NO).
Google Image Search is a case of Good News, Bad News. The Good News is, “Wow, look! They have a way to let you search by license or image rights!” The Bad News is that, of necessity, they trust the information provided on the source page about licensing, and sometimes people steal images, often without realizing they are doing so, and repost them with more freedom than was provided under the original license. That means many, if not most, of the images listed as Creative Commons in Google’s Image Search, well, AREN’T!!

Imagestamper
Cool Toys Pic of the Day - ImageStamper
Imagestamper: http://www.imagestamper.com/

MAYBE. MAYBE NOT.
Not an image search site, but a license management site. Imagestamper offers to manage licensing for you, and keep a record of the license you negotiated at a particularly point in time. The logic is that some images appear to be Creative Commons at one point in time, and then later the owner changes their mind. This really does happen. Ouch. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s still alive.

In their words: “The service is in early beta. Currently the service works with images hosted on Flickr, but we will soon add support for images hosted on deviantART and a number of other image-sharing websites. © 2008-2011 ImageStamper.com”

Morgue File
Creative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Morgue File: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/

NO.
They use a their own home-grown variant of Creative Commons licensing that hasn’t been tested in the courts, and is thus not reliable. Basically, who really knows if these images are safe to use, and how to properly provide attribution?

Noun Project
Cool Toys Pic of the day - Noun Project
Noun Project: http://thenounproject.com/

YES, SOMETIMES
Absolutely fabulous site, but only for images of icons created for and submitted to the site. More info.

Ookaboo
Cool Toys Pic of the day - ookaboo
Ookaboo: http://ookaboo.com/o/pictures/

MAYBE.
Mostly mines Wikimedia Commons for content, under a different interface. Personally, I prefer the original. More info.

SpinXPress
Cool Toys pics of the day: SpinXPress
SpinXPress: http://www.spinxpress.com/getmedia

SOMETIMES.
This is basically a different interface to searching from the Creative Commons portal, with many of the same caveats, and some new ones, too. More Info

Wikimedia Commons
Cool Toys Pic of the Day - Wikimedia Commons (Open Free Pics, Photos and Media)
Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

YES.
But always:
1) click on the image to go to the page for the image information, and
2) scroll to the bottom of the page for each image to check licensing information and use their recommended credit or attribution statement.

Wylio
Cool Toys Pic of the day - WylioCreative Commons Search, Yea or Nay
Cool Toys Pic of the day - WylioCool Toys Pic of the day - Wylio
Wylio: http://www.wylio.com/

MAYBE. MAYBE NOT.
They used to say they’d manage licensing for you, now that’s not clear. They used to just let you search, and now they require you to log in with a Google account. They want you to pay them for the full service, but these are images that are supposed to be free. And on the bottom of the results pages, they feed you to sites that sell images for money. I dunno. Hmmm.

ASSUMPTIONS THAT WORK SOMETIMES, BUT NOT ALWAYS

I can use this because:
– it’s old
– it’s different from the original
– the government made it

BEST PRACTICES

Read the fine print.
Ask for permission if you aren’t sure.
Don’t assume.

MY FAVORITE PLACES FOR FREE IMAGES

1. Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org

2. Flickr Commons (NOT Flickr Creative Commons): http://www.flickr.com/commons

3. For University of Michigan people, here is more information, LOTS more information!

Research Guides: Images: http://guides.lib.umich.edu/content.php?pid=32604