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Using Images: Copyright and Citation

Copyright Permission and Citation When Using Images

Images, like other original works, are protected by copyright. This protection means that the creator of the image has the exclusive right to reuse (copy, distribute, display, etc.) the work. Therefore anyone wanting to use an image must have permission from the copyright holder. Using an image without permission is considered copyright infringement and is a legal matter. If the image is in the public domain or has been labeled for reuse, express permission is not necessary. See the Finding Images page for more information on how to find images that are copyright free. Copyright law provides exceptions for images to be used without permission in certain circumstances. This provision is known as fair use. See more about copyright and fair use in Library 101.

Additionally, images used in a work should be cited, like any other content that is not your own. Proper citation avoids plagiarism, which is an academic offense. Images used in an academic paper or presentation should be cited using the the publication style for the work. See how to cite an image using APA on the right side of this page. For less formal projects, you can give an attribution or credit for the image, where you simply list the author (or photographer) and source of the image. You can include other information such as a title and license, when applicable. See more about attribution from Creative Commons.

In summary,

  • Permission protects against copyright infringement.
  • Citation protects against plagiarism.
  • They are not interchangeable, and one does not substitute for the other.

For More Information on Copyright for Images

Citing Images Using APA

Any images used in a paper or presentation using APA Style should be cited. (Keep in mind that citing the image is different than having permission to use it.)

For example, to use this photo:

June Flowers
(Kehn, 2012)

there is an in-text citation below the image, and the reference list should contain:

Kehn, J. (2012). June Flowers. [Photo]. Retrieved from