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FAQs: using images in your research and study

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See also Image case studies for staff and students (doc) and Pinterest, Image Sharing Websites and the Law (2012 JISClegal)

Can I pin it? (Using Pinterest)

It depends. If the photo or image is completely original (so you own copyright in it) and you havenot pinned or changed it from something else then you can. But if you post your original content to Pinterest remember that it is completely public. (Unlike Flickr or Facebook, you can't create private groups or restrict to friends only). Also Pinterest and other users have a continuing licence to use your content, even after you leave the service.

If you are repinning images from other sites, make sure you have copyright permission to do this - because 'pinning' is a right of the copyright owner. Pinterest's terms of service include a guarantee that if they incur any legal costs from you posting infringing material to their site, you have to pay them back. They can also remove your pins if they get a complaint from a copyright owner about infringement and may shut your account. See their copyright policy and Terms of Service.

What is the copyright in images or photos?

Photos and images are classed as 'artistic works' under the Copyright Act. They do not have to be of artistic merit to be protected by copyright. Each image is a separate copyright work in itself. Unless an educational exception such as Fair dealing applies (see below) you would need permission to use images in your course materials.

With photos, the copyright owner is generally the photographer, unless the image was taken by an employee in the course of their employment. Then copyright in the photo belongs to the employer. Photos commissioned for a particular purpose can be used for that purpose. However copyright remains with the photographer. Just because the photographer has been paid to take the photos does not give the person paying the photographer copyright in those photographs.

Will I breach copyright if I include still images from books or websites in my coursework, assignments or my research?

Images are protected by copyright unless copyright has expired. Citing the author or creator of the image or the source does not clear copyright in the image.

However, the Copyright Act has exceptions that allow students or researchers to reproduce or communicate copyright works such as images for the purposes of research or study, criticism and review and parody and satire as long as the dealing is fair. For more information see Fair dealing. Inclusion of material in coursework may be fair as long as it is not being made widely available ie only your tutor or lecturer has access to it.

Be aware, however, that any publication or broad distribution of third-party content embedded within research output may not be considered a 'Fair Dealing'.You may need to seek permission to use the material. See Copyright and publishing your research (PDF) .

Copying material for your own research or study in preparation for an assignment or thesis is considered fair. If you are in a group project or have a research team and are sharing material via email, this may also be fair as long as the sharing is limited to your project collaborators.

If you are sharing images (or other ‘third-party’ content) on Google Docs through the 'publish' function, keep in mind that your Doc is potentially more accessible to the public than it would be when sharing coursework via email because the Doc is available online via an URL which can be picked up by search engines. So your inclusion of those images in your Doc may no longer be considered ‘fair’ if the Doc could be accessed by anyone, rather than just your research team, study group or classmates.

If you are giving a presentation as part of your course or for your research and you use still images from a book as part of the presentation, this may be a fair dealing as long as the images are only shown to fellow students or staff and not made more widely available.

Where the image you want comes from one of the library's licensed databases, e-books or other e-resources you must be careful to ensure that you only share the image with students in your class or your lecturer/tutor. These e-resources are governed by separate contracts or licenses which may override the provisions in the Copyright Act. Fair dealing may not apply.

If you are concerned about your use of an image from an e-book or database you can check the particular licence terms for that resource, by sending and inquiry through ask.monash (category Library>resources>databases). Better options are to source content from open access/open licensed sources or to seek permission to use the image, or link to the image rather than reproducing it. Then you do not have to worry about Fair Dealing. For example:

  • Flickr has images available under creative commons non-commercial licences which may be appropriate
  • Open Clipart Library has free material available eg for use in group powerpoint presentations etc

See Free content or available for educational use

All images should be fully cited where possible with artist /author/photographer and source details. See Moral Rights.
Where private photos are shown in class or included in research, course materials or lectures, bear in mind there may also be privacy concerns if the subject (person/s) within the photos is/are identifiable. If in doubt seek advice from the University Privacy Office.

What are the issues when using artistic works in research material?

Using artistic works in research material

Artistic works may include references or extracts from other works. For example a collage might use parts of photographs or a video installation might include extracts from films or TV. You would need to consider whether your use of the artistic work was a Fair dealing. If you were publishing the research including the artistic work, fair dealing is less likely to apply. The use and communication online of the third party copyright material might require permission from the copyright owners of that material. Even an artistic work in the same style as another could be an infringement if there were substantial similarities between the works. For example, the modification of the Google logo in slight ways to be reflective of the art of Joan Miro was the subject of a cease and desist letter by the artists estate.

It would depend on the amount used from another work, whether it was insignificant or unrecognisable. This may need to be looked at on a case by case basis.

If an artist died before 1 January 1955, their work should be in the public domain. This is why parodies or pastiches of the Mona Lisa are not infringements because copyright protection for the original painting has expired.

Moral rights for artistic works

When reproducing a substantial amount of another work, the original artist needs to be credited in some way. Any major changes to their work could be an infringement of the moral right of integrity in the work..

What can I copy from a website?

It is often easier to simply link to the relevant page or site and let users access the material themselves. There are no copyright issues with linking as long as the source material or site is clearly identified and the content not, of itself, infringing.
You can also copy certain types of material according to relevant exceptions in the Copyright Act, see fair dealing and Use of copyright material for Research. For the copying to fit within fair dealing you would need to look at factors like how much of the material you are using, could you have purchased the images or information and are you disseminating the research beyond your research group. Fair dealing is less likely to apply where the research is being published. See Fair Dealing FAQs

In some cases, a website may even allow more extensive use but always check the site's terms and conditions. These are often found at the footer linked under 'copyright' 'terms of use' or even a phrase like 'all rights reserved'.

Otherwise you would need permission from the copyright owner of the web material (who might not be the person that put the material online)

NOTE: If you have to agree to terms and conditions before accessing images on a website you will be bound by those terms (eg if you click on an 'I agree' box) and can only use the images in the way you have agreed to in the terms and conditions.

The image I am using states 'creative commons' with different conditions, share-alike, no derivatives, non-commercial. What does it mean? Can I use it?

You may be able to use it depending on what you want to do with the image. 'share-alike' means you have to make the image or any derivative works that you create using the image available under the same terms and conditions. The meaning of 'non-commercial' is more contested, but at minimum if you are wanting to sell the image or sell something you made that includes that image it would be a breach of the licence. You still need to provide correct source and author attribution when using a creative commons image. . See also 'How to cite an image' below and Using Creative Commons Material

How do I cite a creative commons image?

You still need to provide correct source and author attribution when using a creative commons image. There are a number of ways to do this but at minimum you must have information about the creator on or below the image. The linkable icon for the actual licence is also supposed to appear with the image or in a list of citations. For more information see 'How to attribute Creative Commons licensed materials'(Advice to Australian TAFE and schools sector) and 'How to attribute a Creative Commons photo'(external site) by Bobbi L. Newman for good models on citing CC licensed content. See also Using Creative Commons Material

Can I email something to my friends that I saw on YouTube?

Material available on YouTube with permission from the copyright owner should be linked to or embedded using YouTube software, making clear the origins of the content. It should not be downloaded and attached to your email as this could be a breach of YouTube’s Terms of Use and can infringe the owner’s copyright.
But if the material is on YouTube without permission from the copyright owner (as are many of the extracts from commercial film and TV that are available) then it could be a breach of copyright to embed or link to this material.

Do I need to provide the source and the photographer/artist details when I use images or photos?

Yes. You should always try to provide an accurate source citation with any image used, including, where possible, correct attribution of the creator who is the artist/photographer/illustrator. It may not always be possible to provide the source citation exactly where the image features in your work; you may need to add a list of references or credits at the end of your work instead. It may not always be possible to identify the actual artist, photographer or illustrator, but where this information is available to you the Moral Rights provisions within the Copyright Act require that you include proper attribution.

I found the image I want on Google images - aren't all images available through Google free anyway?

No. Just because an image can be found through a Google search doesn't mean it is free of copyright. However, if you are reproducing the image for research or an assignment or report etc or using it in study groups a Fair dealing defence may apply. If you intend to use the image for some other purpose (publication in a webpage, promotional use like your CV or portfolio for example) then you will most likely need to seek permission from the actual copyright holder of the image. Google usually do provide an indication of the actual source for images found through their search engine. You could also try choosing the 'advanced search' option when using Google so that your search results will present only images that are 'labeled for reuse' or for 'reuse with modification' or 'commercial reuse' depending on your needs.

I found an image on the web that is 'royalty free'. Does that mean that I can just use it?

No. Royalty free is completely different to free for use. You may still have to pay an upfront fee to use the image. You certainly need permission from the copyright owners to use the image, so you can't just go ahead and use it.

Royalty free generally means that you only pay once for the use of the image, you do not pay a charge each month or each year depending on usage. Examples of where royalties are paid are where magazines purchase images from an image library. The magazine might pay a royalty each time their website is accessed or for each reproduction in print format.

Can I modify a photograph I found on the Internet and include it in my research or coursework?

The answer to this may hinge on whether your need to modify the image for your research or coursework can be considered fair. The Fair dealing allowance may apply to your work. Whether it applies would depend on a number of factors, including:

  • if modification of the image was for research, study, criticism, review, parody or satire,
  • how widely the modified image is made available eg just seen by classmates or by the lecturer for assessment and
  • whether there were alternatives you could have used instead of modifying the image.

There is no particular percentage or amount of modification of an image that ensures the use is fair. If you only change an image by 10% or 15% it does not guarantee that the use will comply with copyright.

Be aware that any 'adaptation' or modification to an image (drawing, photo, cartoon, etc) that could be seen as derogatory treatment of that image, or that may harm the reputation of the creator of the original image, could be an infringement of the original creator's Moral Rights (so this may need to be factored in as well, when considering who may be exposed to your coursework: is it just for your lecturer or tutor? Or is part of the task intended to making your work available more broadly?) .
If in doubt, seek advice from the Copyright Adviser before you modify the image.

Can I include cartoon characters, found on the Internet to 'liven up' my presentation?

This is best avoided. If the characters could be accessed generally by anyone (ie available as images on the open web) then the Fair dealing allowance may apply, provided that those characters are on the Internet with the authorisation of the copyright holders (unlikely).

You may well find all manner of popular or classic cartoon characters on the Internet - but few will be there with authorisation from the copyright owner. Using online content which is, of itself, infringing is unlikely to be considered fair.

Bear in mind also that, even where a character may be available with authorisation, copyright holders don't always recognise (or may not even be aware) that Australian copyright law allows for fair dealing, and may still take action (and this can raise inconveniences for you, if your use has to be investigated).

You may play legitimate DVDs or films of cartoon characters in class (ie, as part of an assessment task). This kind of 'live' presentation or 'performance' of content is allowed under section 28 of the Copyright Act.

Can I include 'stills' or audiovisual material from feature films (as found on the film company's promotional websites for the films) in my course work or research?

This will depend on how you accessed that material: if it could be accessed generally by anyone (ie available as images on the open web) then the Fair dealing allowance may apply, provided that those stills or audiovisual material are on the Internet with the authorisation of the copyright holders.

However the use of the material must be fair. This could involve factors such as the amount of the film used and how widely it can be accessed. Your use is unlikely to be considered fair if you make the material available on your website or Facebook page.
If you had to be a member or subscriber to get access to the film material, then you will, most likely, have agreed (enacted via some kind of 'click to agree' mechanism) to specific terms and conditions governing the use of content from that website, and in that case you have to follow those terms and conditions. Fair Dealing would not apply in this situation.

You may play legitimate copies of DVDs, films, CDs or other audio or audio-visual resources in class (ie, as part of an assessment task). This kind of 'live' presentation or 'performance' of content is allowed under a different part of the Copyright Act (s. 28).

If there is a picture next to or embedded within a book excerpt I want to copy - do I need to remove that image?

No. If you are relying on Fair dealing and the image exists for the purpose of illustrating or explaining the text you seek to copy, then the image and text would be considered as a whole when analysing the fairness of the copying.

If I include photographs that I took myself, in my research or coursework, will these then become the property of the University?

No, under the University's IP Statute, you own copyright in any material created for assessment. Including private photos in assignments/reports etc will not transfer ownership to the University. If staff want to reproduce your assignment and your photos for any purposes, they should seek your permission first.
Bear in mind there may also be privacy concerns if there are person/s within the photos who are identifiable. If in doubt seek advice from the University Privacy Office.

Can I use images/links or other copyright material in Google docs?

The Copyright Act has specific sections that allow students and researchers to reproduce or communicate copyright works, such as images, for the purposes of research or study, criticism and review and parody and satire as long as the dealing is 'fair'. For more information see Fair dealing.

But if you are sharing images on Google Docs through the ‘publish as webpage’ function, keep in mind that your Doc is potentially more accessible to the public because of the URL than sharing coursework via email. So your inclusion of those images in your Doc may no longer be considered ‘fair’ if the Doc could be accessed by anyone, rather than just your research team, study group or classmates.

Use of images also may not be fair if you share your docs with a mailing list that includes people who are not studying with you or involved in your research project. You can source content from open access/open licensed sources. Then you do not have to worry about Fair Dealing. For example:

Linking to an image or other copyright material may be a safer option. For more information see Linking to content on the web.
All images should be fully cited where possible with artist/ author/photographer and source details. See Moral Rights.
Where private photos are included in your docs, bear in mind there may also be privacy concerns if the person/s within the photos is/are identifiable. If in doubt seek advice from the University Privacy Office.

I want to use a picture I found in a book in my conference poster. It illustrates the topic of my presentation. Can I include it in the poster? Do I have to try and contact the copyright owner?

Firstly, check that the picture is still in copyright. If not, it is free to be used, any privacy or ethical/cultural concerns aside.
If the item is still in copyright, is there any licence on the book, or on the publishers’ website that allows you to use the image in an educational or non-commercial context? If so, print out the licence terms and use the image within those parameters.
If not, then you can consider fair dealing. If the poster itself is being used more as a promotion for the presentation itself, then the use probably would not fall within fair dealing. If the poster was really informative about the research, and the picture being used was really part of the research, it is a stronger argument that it might fall within fair dealing for research and study.
If the picture being reproduced is being criticised or satirised in the poster itself it is possible that there is an argument that it is fair dealing for criticism and review or parody and satire. If the image is in copyright, no express permissions to use it are given and fair dealing does not apply, then you could only include the picture in the poster if you contact the copyright owner and they give permission. See seeking permission and research students: copyright permissions.

Why do I have to worry about copyright when using Google Mail/Docs/Talk/Calendar?

Infringing copyright is a breach of Australian law and could lead to penalties. However, any infringement of copyright is also a breach of Google's terms of service and could lead to suspension or termination of your account. In serious cases there could be legal action by the University or by Google.

Send an email inquiry to the University's Copyright Adviser.