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Discovery Seminar - In Praise of Shadows - Adams - Fall 2022

Students in Dr. Adams's Ways of Seeing in Japan course should check here for research help and recommended resources.
Searching for and Using Images

Getting started

Search strategies for finding images

When searching for images, the search tool you are using typically searches the text that accompanies an image (e.g. the image's upload date, title, tags, photographer name, or its alternative text). This text is also referred to as an image's metadata. An image can have little metadata, making it more difficult to find, or rich and descriptive metadata, which tends to make it easier to locate.

As you search, take a look at some of your results, paying close attention to surrounding text, tags, dates and location. Are there any keywords you should also employ to find similar images? Are there keywords that are returning images you do not find useful? Are there tags you can click on to view similar images?

Ethical and legal considerations

Usage rights and permissions

Before searching for an image, consider what you will be using it for. This will help you identify the type of usage rights you need in order to legally use the image in a given context.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I plan on modifying the image?
  • Am I using it strictly for educational purposes, and if so will it be shared outside of the classroom (e.g. on a public website)?
  • Will I be using this image for commercial purposes?
  • Will it be decorative or a key element of the work it will be integrated in?

Considering your intended use should inform your search strategy and image selection.

Why cite?

To help ensure that you are using images both legally and ethically, use them in compliance with copyright law and usage guidelines and cite their author.

  • Citing allows viewers to see where the image came from, while giving recognition to the author of the work.
  • We recommend citing images created by others, but also those you create yourself.
  • If taking your own photos, be sure to request permission from the people you would like to have in the photo. If they are minors, you MUST request permission from a parent or guardian.

Icons are from The Noun Project and shared under Creative Commons (CC BY): Copyright by ArmOkay, TH; legal by Made x Made, AU; Public Domain by iconbox89, ID and Creative Commons by Austin Condiff, US.


NEXT: Click on the tab Copyright

What is copyright and what works are copyrighted?

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

Examples of copyrightable works include:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works, including any accompanying words
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds
  • Architectural works

These categories should be viewed broadly for the purpose of registering your work. For example, computer programs and certain “compilations” can be registered as “literary works”; maps and technical drawings can be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”

U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). Copyright Basics. [PDF] Retrieved from

Digital media, copyright and other usage rights

Source: U.S. Copyright Office. [U.S. Copyright Office]. (2019, October 30). Copyright on the Internet [Video]. YouTube.

When should I seek permission from the copyright owner?

*See the Creative Commons images page for more information.

Flowchart by Anne Le-Huu Pineault, information adapted from : University of Illinois Library. (2020, August 7). Home . Copyright for Graduate Students LibGuide: Theses and Dissertations. (CC BY 4.0)

NEXT: Click on the tab Fair Use
  Fair Use


  • Fair use is a limitation on a copyright owner's ability to pursue copyright infringement. Under fair use, you can use a work that is copyright-protected without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner.
  • Intending to use a work under fair use? Perform a fair use assessment each time and keep a copy in your records.

What is fair use?

Source: U.S. Copyright Office. [U.S. Copyright Office]. (2019, October 30). Fair Use [Video]. YouTube.

Fair use assessment

Four factors

Using a work under fair use does not protect you from being sued for copyright infringement. Fair use is determined by a judge on a case-by-case basis. Each time you plan to use a work under fair use, performing a fair use assessment is a best practice. Here are the four factors considered when determining if a use is fair:


Assessment tools

Thinking of using a work under fair use? Review the Is it a fair use? infographic created by the Cornell University Library (CC BY) to get an overview of the elements considered to determine whether each of the four fair use factors leans toward or against fair use in a given context. Then, use the Fair Use Evaluator (online tool) or Fair Use Checklist (worksheet) to perform an assessment.

Fair Use Evaluator by Michael Brewer & ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)
Fair Use Checklist [PDF] by Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville) (CC BY 4.0)
NEXT: Click on the tab Public Domain
  Public Domain

What is public domain?

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist.

How do works fall into the public domain?

  • Copyright typically expires 70 years after the death of its author
  • The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • It was placed in the public domain deliberately by the copyright owner (also called ”dedication”)
  • Copyright law does not protect this type of work.

Stim, R. (n.d.). Welcome to the Public Domain. Retrieved from (CC BY-NC 3.0)

 Source: U.S. Copyright Office. [U.S. Copyright Office]. (2019, December 18). What is Public Domain? [Video]. YouTube.

Finding public domain images

  • The Met Collection 
  • HathiTrust Digital Library
    HathiTrust is a large-scale collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries including content digitized via the Google Books project and Internet Archive digitization initiatives, as well as content digitized locally by libraries.
  • Unsplash (Public domain)
    Unsplash is a commercial site that offers a selection of public domain images.
NEXT: Click on the tab Creative Commons
  Creative Commons

What are Creative Commons Licenses?

 Source: University of Guelph Library. [U of G Library]. (2018, September 21). What are Creative Commons Licenses [Video]. YouTube. (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Four Creative Commons license elements

BY – Credit must be given to the creator
NC – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
SA – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms [share alike]
ND – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted

Creative Commons. (n.d.). About CC Licenses. Creative Commons. (CC BY 4.0)

Finding Creative Commons images