Having trouble finding images to reuse? Our tips will point you in the right direction. Image-in that!

by Katie McLean on 2019-08-06T08:58:00-03:00 in Copyright, Images | Comments

The right image can brighten up your content or reinforce a message you are trying to convey. It’s not always realistic to create or commission the perfect image when developing content for education, research, and the workplace, so people often reuse or adapt existing images to meet their needs. It’s easy to run a Google image search, but there are better places to search for images that will deliver higher quality files and clear guidance about reuse, adaptation, and attribution.

Images are Protected by Copyright

Images are a form of intellectual property. Keep in mind that copyright protection of intellectual property is automatic under Canadian copyright legislation. Material doesn’t have to include the copyright symbol (©) for it to be protected. Only copyright owners have the immediate right to reuse and adapt their work (NSHA Copyright & Intellectual Property Policy, 2018).

It’s important to check the image source for information about the creator or copyright owner’s terms. This information may be clearly displayed alongside the image information or you may have to search the source’s website for a section called Terms of Use, Terms & Conditions, Copyright Statement, etc.

If you find an image with a clear watermark on it, it’s not OK to reuse or adapt the image without permission from the copyright owner. If you can’t find a copyright statement, or you locate a statement that doesn’t cover how you want to reuse or adapt the image, connect directly with the copyright owner, get permission and document it. Simply send an email to the source’s general inbox and clearly state what you want to reuse and how you want to reuse it.

Creative Commons & Noun Project

There are several online resources to help you reuse and adapt images ethically. Creative Commons image search helps you look for images that are in the public domain or under a Creative Commons license. Check the I want something I can – Modify or adapt box if you intend to alter the image. Check the I want something I can – Use for commercial purposes box if you will profit from reuse of the image.

Let’s say you want to find images of wheelchairs that you can modify and add a cat to – try searching wheelchairs here. On the results page, click the Filter icon and set the first drop down to Modify or adapt. Choose an image from the filtered results and investigate the permissions. Below an image, the Info tab will list applicable licenses that outline how you can use the image. This wheelchair image  is shared under a CC CC0 1.0 license. We can copy, modify (add a cat), or distribute the image (even for commercial purposes) without asking permission. Although attributing the source of the image is not required in this case, doing so shows professionalism and respect for the content creator. Select the Attribution tab below an image to get a citation you can copy and paste into your work.

Noun Project is great place for finding icons. While you need a subscription to reuse some icons without attribution and to change icon colours, you can create a free account to access black and white icons and attribute them as outlined for each image. 

Let’s search for wheelchairs. This image looks good. To reuse it, we need to consult the Creative Commons information. When downloading the image, we're instructed to give attribution to the creator when reusing by keeping the embedded citation on the image.


Images from Subscription Databases

Library Services subscribes to a number of resources for staff and physicians that contain images. Anatomy.TV and ClinicalKey® are two subscription resources that have great images you can reuse, as long as you follow each resource’s terms. Images from Anatomy.TV can be used for educational purposes, provided you include the copyright information (©Informa UK Limited 2019) and a link to the site's Terms & Conditions page. In ClinicalKey®, you can use the Presentation tool to export images to a PowerPoint presentation; the attribution is automatically included for you.

Next time you’re looking for images to add to your content, whether it’s a patient education pamphlet, policy, LMS module or original research, skip the Google image search and start with image resources recommended by Library Services in our Copyright subject guide. Remember to investigate permissions for any images you want to use, follow terms set by the copyright owner, and ask for specific permissions when necessary.

Katie McLean

Librarian Educator, Education & Outreach
Dickson Building, Central Zone

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