Using others' images

Last changed: 04 December 2017
Arkitektritningar och händer

What rules apply when you want to use someone else’s image, table, or diagram in your work?

In academic writing you cite and refer to others' texts, and this is absolutely acceptable according to the rules of copyright, as long as you follow the formal conventions surrounding citations and references. But what are the rules for using others' images?

If you want to use someone's image, table or diagram you cannot simply reference the source from which you took the image - you are also required to ask for permission to use the image from the author before including an image in your work. Of course, you must also provide a clear reference for the source of the image. To obtain permission, you need to contact the author or publisher (the party that holds the economic rights to the work). Permission does not need to be provided in any specific way - it can be either by word of mouth or in writing. Keep this permission!

If you want to ask for permission to use a figure from a scientific publication you can usually find a link from the electronic version of the article that takes you to a form where you have to state your purpuse etc.

Find free images with Creative Commons!

If you want to use others' images there's a smart way to find images with a free license.

Creative Commons (CC) is an international organization with the goal of simplifying the legal use and distribution of creative material on the Internet. By using so-called Creative Commons licenses the author of a work can mark his web-based material in advance and clearly describe what others can do with his work. For instance, if you find an image online with a Creative Commons license that allows you to use and distribute the material (with specific conditions) it’s basically the same as getting permission to use an item without the need to actually contact the copyright holder. You can find Creative Commons materials through a number of search engines, for example see Creative Commons Search

Good sites for finding photos and video:

Flickr: A searchengine for photos where you can both upload your own and find other people's photos. You can choose to search for Creative Commons-licensed material and there is a great variety to choose from. A big advantage is that it is clear what the CC license for the photo is and it's a good search engine to begin searching with .

Google: With the search option "Images" you can search for Creative Commons - licensed material. Enter your search and then select "Search Tools". Under "Usage Rights" you can select the license you want for the image. Remember to check carefully where the images come from and that they are ok to use, because Google collects search results from different sites.

YouTube: A searchengine for videos where you can both upload your own and find other videos. Enter your search and then select under "Filters" the option "Creative Commons" - then you will get the videos that have received a Creative Commons license. Remember to still check carefully the clip, that it does not contain any material (eg music, video) that needs copyright.

Wikimedia Commons: A media library and database for free images, videos, music and audio files. Contains only materials with free license and above all the Creative Commons-licensed material. You can search both materials and upload your own material.

Pixabay: A website where users can upload photos and videos without copyright. The material can be used free of charge and you do not have to specify a license. The license for all material on the website is Creative Commons 0 ( CC0 ) which means that the creator does not need to be specified.

Referencing CC material

For tips on how to best reference Creative Commons material that you want to use visit the Creative Commons website.
What should be included in CC-licensed works is: name of the work, name of the author and the CC license. These should also be provided with links so that others easily can find the sources.
Here is an example of an image found on Flickr:

Flowers by Patrick Nouhailler (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

Using CC licenses for your own material

When you create something, you can also apply a CC license to your work  - just make sure that you actually have the right to do so, for example, if the work in question has more than one author. Creative Commons’ website offers some good tips on things to think about before licensing your work!

Which license is right for your work? Swedish foundation .SE has a good guide to choosing, step-by-step, the right license conditions: Creative Commons – choose the right license (only in Swedish)!

Facts:

If you want to use someone's image, table or diagram you cannot simply reference the source from which you took the image - you are also required to ask for permission to use the image from the author before including an image in your work. Of course, you must also provide a clear reference for the source of the image.

Page editor: Bib-webbredaktionen@slu.se