Finding & Using Images


This guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions, please contact EMU's Legal Affairs Office.

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Many classroom uses of copyrighted images an be justified using copyright law's fair use exemption.

Please see the "Fair Use" page on on our Copyright Guide for more information.

Other classroom exemptions are detailed below.


In Person Teaching

Displaying an image the in-person classroom setting is likely covered by the Classroom Use Exemption ((17 U.S.C. §110(1)).

To rely on this exemption, the instructor or student displaying the image must:

  • be in a classroom ("or similar place devoted to instruction").

  • be there in person, engaged in face-to-face teaching activities.

  • be at a nonprofit educational institution.

  • be using a lawfully made copy

Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Online Teaching

The TEACH Act (17 U.S.C. §110(2)) sets out the conditions in which copyrighted media, including images, can be used in an online class.

Some of the more crucial requirements:

  • the image is displayed by the instructor of record (or by someone under their supervision) in a class session offered by an accredited nonprofit educational institution;
  • the image is transmitted solely to students officially enrolled in the course (such using your Canvas shell);
  • the image is directly related to and of material assistance to your teaching content; and the image was obtained lawfully.

You can read the TEACH Act at 17 U.S.C. § 110(2).


Scholarly Lecture or Presentation

In general, copyright-protected images used in face-to-face presentations or lectures at scholarly conferences are permitted under the fair use exemption.

However, if the lecture or presentation is not at a scholarly conference and attendees are paying to listen to you, you should obtain permission before using any copyright-protected images.

Also, if a presentation will be captured and made available as a video through YouTube (or other video platform) or as a slideshow through Slideshare (or a similar platform), or if you are publishing your work in a proceedings, you should use images that are in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license, or that you have explicit written permission from the copyright owner to use.

Scholarly Publications

Usually, book and journal publishers will require that you obtain explicit, written permission from the copyright holder to use images, unless the works are in the public domain or available with a Creative Commons license.

Frequently Asked Questions

What about images found in the EMU Library's databases?

Images in our licensed databases can be used for educational and non-commercial purposes (class presentations and lectures, teaching, presentations at scholarly conferences, and educational websites restricted to EMU users, such as Canvas) without concern.

A "Terms of Use," or similar page will share how the works in that product can be used .

How do I seek permission to use a copyright-protected image in a publication?

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office has an excellent guide on "Obtaining Copyright Permissions."

If you know you want to use copyright-protected works in your published scholarship, you should plan early and start the permissions-seeking process asap.

What if I cannot identify the copyright holder of the image?

You are talking about an orphan work. Orphan works are works that  are copyright-protected, but the copyright holder cannot be identified or located.  If you use an orphan work in your published scholarship, you will need to rely on the fair use exemption to use the image legally.

What if the copyright holder doesn't respond to my request for permission?

A non-response should be treated as a "no" response.