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Copyright and images

The University is undergoing a major overhaul of its copyright Pages (Aug 2014) due to changes in copyright law.
Completion is scheduled by January 2015.  In the meantime if you need further advice please contact either: Sue Howlett s.l.howlett@staffs.ac.uk or Vicki  McGarvey Vicki.Mcgarvey@staffs.ac.uk

Images, also known as “artistic works”, are a type of copyright work frequently used by staff and students. The term covers a wide range of works, including: photographs, paintings and drawings, diagrams, graphics, maps, sculpture, charts, tables and graphs. They may exist in a digital or a non-digital format. 

Images are protected for the lifetime of the creator, e.g. the artist or photographer, and for 70 years after his/her death. There can be particular problems concerning the ownership and period of protection for photographs taken before 1988 – if you wish to use these in your work, contact us.

If the image is still in copyright, there are also likely to be moral rights in it, protecting the creator from the work being subject to derogatory treatment. Care should be taken to ensure that any use or copying of an image does not infringe these rights, e.g. by cropping an image or amending it in any way. 

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.

Copying images

Images may be copied under fair dealing for private study or research for a non-commercial purpose. This only applies to single copies made for/by an individual, although as far as Ordnance Survey maps are concerned, you may make up to four copies of an area of map roughly equivalent to A4 size for this purpose. For further information:

VisitFair dealing: copying for private study or research

Images contained in print sources, e.g. diagrams or illustrations in a book, which are covered by the CLA Licence and not on the current CLA List of excluded categories and works may be copied and included in a course pack or otherwise distributed to students. Note that maps, charts and books of tables are not covered by this Licence. For further information visit the following webpages:

Images may be copied for examination purposes, including assessed work which contributes to the student’s final mark. For further information:

VisitCopyright and examinations

It is not possible, under library privilege, for the University Library to copy images or to obtain copies of them from another library. 

If an artwork, such as a monument or a building, is on permanent public display, e.g. in a public park, then it may be photographed without the permission of the rights holder, even though it may still be protected by copyright. This exception does not include artworks on display in a public gallery or museum: the gallery or museum has rights of ownership whether or not the artwork is still in copyright, and you would need to obtain its permission before you took any photographs. If you wish to make slides of an image contained in a print source, e.g. a photograph in a book, this may be possible under the DACS Licence.

If your intended copying and use does not fit into any of the above categories, then you will need to obtain express written permission from the rights holder(s) before you copy the image(s).

Using images in an electronic environment

Staff and students may wish to use images in an e-learning environment such as a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) or in a web page. The images may already exist in a digital format, e.g. in someone else’s web page, or be non-digital, e.g. a photograph in a book which would need to be digitised before it could be used. Unless the copying is for the purposes of an examination or assessed work which contributes to the student’s final mark, written permission from the rights holder(s) should be obtained before any such digitising or copying takes place.

Free image collections

There exist a number of sources which provide free digital images, often specifically for educational purposes. Check the site’s terms and conditions to ensure that your use and purpose are covered, and include any appropriate acknowledgements, copyright statements etc. as required by the source.

Other image collections

There are available on the web some other image collections which although not free, provide relatively straightforward licensing procedures for their use. Check the terms, conditions and licence arrangements on each site.


Sue Howlett
Information Protection & Security Manager
Staffordshire University
Stoke on Trent
t: +44 (0)1782 294365
e: s.l.howlett@staffs.ac.uk