Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Visual Resources Association's Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study

Most of us who use images in education and scholarship find ourselves wondering at some point about whether we are within our legal rights to use an image. Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act allows for “fair use” exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright owners to reproduce their work. While most educators know that teaching, scholarship, and research are generally thought to fall under the fair use umbrella, many of us find ourselves with more questions than answers. Under what circumstances can I post this image online? Can I share that image with colleagues from a different institution?

To help the academic community navigate the murky waters of copyright and fair use, the Visual Resources Association (VRA) released its Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study (PDF) last December. It has since been lauded and endorsed by many professional individuals and organizations, including the College Art Association and the Association of Research Libraries.

This document offers important guidance for individuals and institutions who seek a balance between risk management and the pursuit of educational and scholarly goals. It begins with an excellent introduction to fair use in relation to using in education and research. Then it describes six uses of copyrighted still images that the VRA and its impressive Legal Advisory Committee believe fall within fair use, along with suggestions for practices to bolster a fair use argument. These six uses are: 1) preservation; 2) use of images in teaching; 3) use of images on course websites and in other online study materials; 4) adaptations of images for teaching and classroom work by students; 5) sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study; and 6) reproduction of images in theses and dissertations.

Image: Wordle created using the text from the VRA Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study.

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