Images and copyright
Images and copyright
Great photos can add enormous impact to a website. Using authentic and original images can help tell an important story about student, academic or campus life.
Although it’s tempting to search the web for images that are perfect for your web page, it’s important to be aware that not all images that you find on the web are freely available for anyone to use.
Many images are copyrighted, which means they cannot be used without the owner’s permission. You could be charged with a criminal offence if you use an image in breach of copyright.
Key points about copyright
- Copyright is infringed when copyright material is used without permission in one of the ways exclusively reserved to the copyright owner.
- A copyright owner is entitled to commence a civil action in court against someone who has infringed his or her copyright, and may be entitled to various remedies.
- Some infringements of copyright (usually those that involve a commercial element) are also criminal offences, and various penalties can be imposed if someone is convicted of a copyright offence or issued with an infringement notice
The Australian copyright council has more information about copyright, infringements, permissions and much more.
Using good quality images
The University prefers that all images are created by professional photographers wherever possible. The use of stock library images in any of our print or online publications is strongly discouraged.
The Cumulus database
For Macquarie University web pages, your first port of call should always be the University’s own image database, Cumulus.
In the past few years Macquarie’s visual identity has become instantly recognisable thanks to the depth and diversity of images gathered by Macquarie’s photographic team.
More than 40,000 images are hosted in our Cumulus image database, with Macquarie staff making over 8000 requests for images each year – for newsletters and other publications that showcase their work to the world.
To help meet growing demand, Cumulus was recently upgraded to become a more seamless and intuitive user experience. It now offers better search, order and download functions as well as video storage capability.
More information about using the Cumulus image database is available on the staff portal.
Free images online
While it’s possible to find free images online using Google image search, you still need to be careful about what you use. The use of free online images should never be your first choice, and they should only be used if you can't find a suitable image on Cumulus.
Creative Commons has a great blog article that explains more about using images from the web.
Images with watermarks
Images that show an embedded watermark are clearly not free to use. The watermark either indicates it is a commercial stock photograph or that it's copyrighted.
No watermark doesn’t mean it’s safe to use either
Let’s say you’ve found an image on the internet without any copyright information. The next step is to do an image search. A Google Image search may reveal that this image has been reproduced many times. It may be impossible to identify the copyright owner. However, this does not mean it is free to re-use. In general terms, unless an image is extremely old, it is safest to assume that it is protected by copyright and you may not reuse it without permission.
The safest way to find images that you are legally entitled to reuse is to look for those that have been freely licensed in advance. These are usually licensed under Creative Commons
The Creative Commons provides an alternative licensing system so that authors, musicians and other creators can grant rights to the public to use their work without payment but still retain control over their copyright material. There are several types of Creative Commons licenses. The licenses differ by several combinations that condition the terms of distribution.
You should pay attention to the type of license offered under Creative Commons and make sure you adhere to its requirements.
Google image search – filter by usage rights
You can find unlicensed images directly on Google:
- Type your search query
- Click on Search Tools, then Usage Rights and select 'Labeled for Reuse'.
It’s probably a good idea to then double-check that the image you’ve chosen is genuinely free to use. You can use a reverse image search like TinEye to check any further usage rights.
Flickr Creative Commons
Flickr is a massive user-generated resource for photography, with many professionals and semi-professionals showcasing their work here.
You can search all the images by usage rights and use any that are labelled with a Creative Commons license.
You just need to make sure you give full credit and link to the Flickr profile of the person who took the photo.
There are various licenses available, so make sure you double-check the details. For example, some photographers will only agree to their images being used for non-commercial purposes.
- Always choose images that enhance your web page. Don't just use images for the sake of it.
- Use images from the University's Cumulus database as your first priority.
- If you must use an image from the web, make sure it is not copyright and observe the requirements of the Creative Commons license attached to it.