Do I have the rights to publish an image I found in a book or on a web site?
In general: no.
- Books are copyrighted. The contents whose copyright is not owned by the publisher has been licensed.
- As the owner of a book, you have a right to make copies for personal use––not to publish or share.
An exception is the doctrine of “fair use.”
- According to Stanford, this allows
copying of copyrighted material…for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner.
- This includes face-to-face teaching and critical commentary and discussion.
- But in almost all cases, scholars ask permission before republishing materials they are commenting on critically.
- And when the materials are on the web, linking back to the original is considered respectful and shows you are not appropriating someone else’s content but rather directing readers to it.
What about an image on a museum’s web site?
- A museum’s publishing an image on their site does not imply that users have the right to re-publish that image. In fact, the contrary is almost always explicitly stated by the museum.
- The Museum of Russian Icon’s images are copyright protected.
- Dunbarton Oaks specifically requires permission for publication of any of its materials. The statement is on the righthand column of most records.
- Presumably “publication” broadly entails digital.
- Users may request permission to publish images, but the copyrights for all the works or images are owned by Dumbarton Oaks.
- The Hermitage Museum requires written requests to publish any of its images.
- The Metropolitan Museum requires requests for permission to publish for any purpose.
- By publishing images on its web site, the Met does not yield the copyright nor give the user permission to reproduce any of its content.
- The Met allows users normal “fair use” (including educational and scholarly), but they require users to link back to the original via url.