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Using Images...Legally & Ethically: Home

Take It Step by Step

Images are essential resources in many fields, and are a critical component of presentations and publications.  Images, whether published in a book, posted on a website, or fresh from your camera, may be copyrighted.  How do you determine the status of an image, and how are you legally and ethically allowed to use it?  Take it step by step:

1)  Is the underlying work represented in the image protected by copyright or license?

2)  Is the photograph or digital image protected by copyright or license?

3) How do you plan to use the image?

The Visual Resources Association's Digital Image Rights Computator will walk you through these questions.


Best Practices Resources

Getting Permission

So, you've decided you are not covered by Fair Use.  What next?  Get permission:

Don't Forget to Caption/Cite Your Images

The images you include in your research must be captioned in MLA Style.  Here are the basic elements.  The first 6 relate specifically to the content of the image or illustration.  If your image content is not a work of art, you may not need all 6.  After identifying the content of the image, you need to identify the source, in other words: where you got the image from.  Use the list on the left to identify images from a book.  Use the list on the right to identify images from a web site.


  1. Title of Book.
  2. Author or editor.
  3. City:
  4. Publisher,
  5. Year of publication.
  6. Page number, figure number or plate number.
  7. Medium of reproduction.
  1. Content information plus:
  2. Title of Web Site.
  3. Web.
  4. Date of access (day, month, year).
  5. <URL is optional>.


Picasso, Pablo.  Homme au chapeau de paille et au cornet de glace.  1936.  Oil on canvas.  Musée Picasso, Paris.  Web.   17 June 2011. <>

  1. Artist's name
  2. Title
  3. Year of composition
  4. Medium
  5. Institution or private collection that houses the work
  6. City
  7. Medium of publication
  8. Date accessed
  9. URL (optional)

Brandt, Lydia Mattice. “The Palladian Window at the Center of the New Room.” The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington. The George Washington Presidential Library. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

  1. Author's name
  2. "Image Title"
  3. Source Title
  4. Institution
  5.   Medium of publication
  6.   Date accessed
  7.   URL (optional)



Subject Guide

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Beth Royall
Evansdale Library 109
Subjects: Art, Music, Theater