Example #1

An author would like to include a photo of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, painted between 1503-1517.  The photo below was found on Wikimedia, which states that it is in the public domain but provides a link to the Louvre Museum as the source of the photo.  Can we use the image without permission?

Perms SIte 01

Source: © RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre) / Michel Urtado



  • Copyright on original artwork is expired and so the painting is in the public domain.

  • However, the photo of the original artwork is owned by the Louvre and is not in the public domain.

  • Permission to use this photo would be required.

  • Possible solution: Locate an image of the painting that has been placed in the public domain.

Example #2

An author would like to use a poem she found in the following publication:  Character and Heroism by Ralph Waldo Emerson published by Ulan Press (2012).

The same title was originally published by New York, Boston, H.M. Caldwell Co. (1900).  Do we need to request permission from Ulan Press?  Do we need to credit Ulan Press?



  • No permission is needed to reprint this poem, as it is in the public domain.

  • The credit line should source Ralph Waldo Emerson (1900).  It is not necessary to credit Ulan Press, as they simply reprinted the public domain material.

  • NOTE: Foreign works are governed by different laws and so you should inquire with your Rights Specialist regarding any foreign works that may have an expired copyright.

Example #3

This figure was taken directly from a website.  Can we use it?

Perms SIte 02

Surrounding discussion: 

A measure can be valid but not reliable, or reliable but not valid—or it can be both (the best result), or neither (the worst). The analogy of shooting at a target helps illustrate this idea, as shown in Figure 4.7.

The lower left target shows a shooter who is reliable but not valid—her shots are highly consistent but off the mark. The upper right target, in contrast, illustrates a shooter who is valid but unreliable—on average his shots center on the bull’s-eye but are wildly dispersed (lots of random errors). The lower right target illustrates the best shooter—the shots are both consistent (reliable) and on the mark (valid). Finally, the upper left shooter is the worst, as the shots are both widely dispersed and off the mark.

Picturing this bull’s-eye analogy often helps in learning and applying the distinction between validity and reliability.


  • Fair use. Significant surrounding discussion.

Example #4

The copyright of this image is held by an unknown attendee of a stand-up comedy performance who took this photo of American stand-up comedian, actress, and writer Amy Schumer, performing in 2006 and posted it anonymously online.

Can we use this photo?

Perms Site 03

Surrounding Discussion:  

Informality and a lack of contrivance are hallmarks of stand-up comedy’s contemporary style. The stand-up comedian performs for the most part without conspicuous staging, props, or costuming. As can be seen in this photo of Comedian Amy Schumer performing, effective use is made of the diegetic space of the (deliberately) bare stage, namely a microphone stand and a stool or a table; the performer wears a costume that is a deliberate “non-costume” of what he or she would typically wear as an audience member.


  • Copyright: The surrounding text ties specific elements of the image to the topic being discussed and provides new insights and meaning to the image, thereby transforming the purpose of the photo.  This would likely qualify as low risk fair use.

  • Privacy rights: As a public figure performing her act in a public setting, Amy Schumer has no reasonable expectation of privacy.  The use of this photo should be fine as long as the text is not defamatory, portrays a false light, and her image is not being used in a manner that would impede on her publicity rights.  In this context, there are no privacy concerns.

Example #5

This photo was taken at a public event.  The author does not directly refer to it in the text.

What permissions are required?

Perms Site 04


  • Copyright: Since there is no transformative discussion related to this image, copyright permission would be required.

  • Privacy rights: Although this photo was taken at a public event, the angle of the shot zooms very close to only four faces and restricts the view of the event.  Essentially, this image feels very “private” even while in a public setting.  In addition, the subjects appear to be minors, and so a higher level of scrutiny of the material is recommended. As such, it is recommended that visual likeness releases are obtained or use an alternate image.