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Copyright for Students: Images

An introductory guide


Just because an image is available for download on the web, it doesn't necessarily mean you can use it.

Images, including photographs, illustrations or diagrams from books, journals or the web are subject to copyright in their own right. Be aware that there can very often be more than one set of rights in an image, for example, a photograph taken in 1999 of a painting by Van Gogh – the painting is clearly out of copyright but the photograph is still protected.

Copyright in artistic works lasts until 70 years after the death of the artist/photographer. However, there may be other legal protection preventing you from using the work e.g. a cartoon character may be registered as a trademark.

So beware Google images for example, this is merely a search engine which finds images from different websites all over the Internet. It is usually not possible to re-use such images without obtaining the permission of the copyright holders of the particular material in question.

Copyright-free images

The Library has access to large online collections of images that you can use, select ‘Images’ from the ‘resource type’ drop-down menu in the Databases to browse the collections to which we subscribe. If you need help then get in touch with us via email

Additionally, there are some standard image collections on the internet which are royalty free such as :




Want to Know More?

The Intellectual Property Office has recently issued this useful copyright guidance: Digital images, photographs and the internet.  It is aimed at people using images found online, or uploading images to the internet.

DACs or the Design and Artists Copyright Society have a guide to Copyright and Photographs

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