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Visual Resources: Copyright & Citation Help

The Yale University Visual Resources Collection's guide to digital image resources.

Copyright and Image Citation

Copyright Info | Citation Info




Copyright Information


A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

Developed by the Visual Resources Association, the Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC) program assists the user to assess the intellectual property status of a specific image documenting a work of art, a designed object, or a portion of the built environment so that the user can make informed decisions regarding the intended educational uses of that image. 

Certain images provided by the Met available through ARTstor are publication-quality images and are available free-of-charge for use in scholarly publications.  These images will have an IAP icon below the thumbnail.  Users will have to agree to a terms and conditions statement to download the publication-quality images.

United Kingdom-based company, which marketed transparencies and CD±ROMs of reproductions of public domain works of art brought suit against Canadian corporation, alleging copyright infringement, violation of the Lanham Act, and unfair competition. Upon defendant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment, the District Court, Kaplan, J., held that: (1) United Kingdom-based company's transparencies and CD±ROMs lacked sufficient originality to be copyrightable under United Kingdom law; (2) even if company's images were copyrightable, company did not make out its claim of infringement; and (3) company failed to establish violation of Lanham Act.

Thorough website relating to Fair Use in the educational context.

Thorough website about the relationship of copyright law and higher education organized by Kenneth Crews,

Guide for using images from Japan for publication.

"Provides free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof."



When you need to purchase rights to publish a copyrighted image, look here:

Clearing house for the rights of major European an American museums, archives and collections.

     Clearing house for the rights of the majority of the artists active in the 20th century.

     A database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.

Citation Guidelines*
Digital images, like text, must be cited when used used in papers, article, books, etc. Don't forget citing a digitized version of an image is different than citing the original object. A very good guide that includes how to use images  is the 2008 edition of Sylvan Barnet's A Short Guide to Writing About Art, which is available through Yale Libraries.


Chicago Manual of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style: Online version of the 15th edition. See chapter 12 for detailed information on artworks. The Chicago Manual of Style is available also available in print editions at many YUL libraries.

Here is an example of a proper citation for a photograph in Chicago Style. The image was located in the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division online catalog.


Footnote or Endnote
Ann Rosener, "Don't let pretty labels on cans mislead you," 1942, Photograph, Washington D.C., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA – OWI Collection, 

Rosener, Ann. "Don't let pretty labels on cans mislead you," 1942. Photograph. Washington D.C., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA – OWI Collection. (accessed June 10, 2008).


Additional citation guidelines:

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian is available at numerous Yale Libraries has ample information in a section called Visual Sources. Turabian style indicates paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other artworks should only be cited in notes, not bibliographies. Titles of paintings are italicized while titles of photographs are set in quotation marks.


Georgia O'Keefe, The Cliff Chimneys, 1938, Milwaukee Art Museum.

Ann Rosener, "Don't let pretty labels on cans mislead you," 1942. Photograph, Washington D.C., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA – OWI Collection,


APA (American Psychological Association) Style
Publication manual of the American Psychological Association is available in print at the YUL Libraries.


MLA (Modern Language Association of America) Style
Using the Principles of MLA Style to Cite and Document (Online) Sources

A summary of MLA style as applied to online sources - from the companion website to Online!: A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources.  Click here for clear information about citing multimedia sources including works of art in a MLA list of Works Cited.

MLA handbook for writers of research papers is available in print at the YUL Libraries.


*Provided by Ian McDermott, formerly Assistant Librarian at the Yale Center for British Art

Trending. . . Open Access Images

With the launch of NGA Images, the National Gallery of Art implements an open access policy for digital images of works of art that the Gallery believes to be in the public domain. Images of these works are now available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Gallery for authorization to use these images. NGA Images offers more than 20,000 open access images.  Click here for recent additions.

For more open access images, see ARTstor's Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiaitve.

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