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Tips for using images in online education

To best position yourself to assert a fair use argument when using images, consider doing the following:

  • Link to the images if possible rather than making an electronic copy available to students. Linking to materials is ordinarily not a violation of copyright but rather a technological instruction for locating materials.
  • If copying an image, use the lowest image resolution possible to achieve your purpose.
  • Avoid copying images from materials created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one at hand (e.g. from a textbook, workbook, or other instructional materials designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use.
  • Make sure that the images serve a pedagogical purpose. Avoid using images as "windowdressing," or for aesthetic purposes only. 
  • Place the images in the context of the course, explaining why they were chosen and what they are intended to illustrate. Recontextualize the images when appropriate through the addition of study questions, commentary, criticism, annotation, and student reactions.
  • Limit access to the images to students enrolled in the course.
  • Notify students that images are being made available for teaching, study, and research only.
  • Provide attributions to known copyright owners of the images and any works depicted in the images.

Resources for using images in online education