Images, Film, Music, Media

Determining how and when you can re-use multimedia materials such as images, film and music can be especially challenging. Just because you find something on the “open web” doesn’t mean it’s free of copyright restrictions. On the contrary, the safer assumption is that almost everything you encounter on the web is protected by copyright, as are most things you find in the Library that weren’t published more than 95 years ago.

In deciding how you can reuse media you find online or in the Library, the following resources may be useful, especially the codes of best practices established by various disciplinary societies.

Sometimes it seems like copyright covers everything and it lasts forever, but in reality we have a healthy and growing public domain comprised of works free of any copyright constraints. Works in the public domain are free for all to use for any purpose. To find public domain material, you can start with our page Collections of Public Domain Works.

Works made available under a Creative Commons license can be reused without seeking permission as long as the author complies with the terms of the particular CC license used for that work. (Some prohibit commercial use, some prohibit alteration, and some require downstream users to apply open licenses to their own work if it incorporates a CC-licensed work. So read carefully!) Learn more about CC licenses here, and find CC-licensed work using their search engine here. All CC licenses require proper attribution, so always be sure to give credit when you use CC works.

Many sites offer stock images, music, and other media on a “free” or “royalty-free” basis. Be careful, however, as these sites also use license terms to limit what users can do without paying a fee. Read the fine print and ensure your use fits within the terms permitted by the license. Also, look out for scammy sites that may be scraping the web and posting images they do not own.