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Copyright guide

Still images

Images of artistic and visual works covered by the Copyright Act include: paintings, drawings, maps, charts, plans, photographs, engravings, sculptures, works of artistic craftsmanship, architectural works, and compilations of artistic works. Copyright in general continues for 50 years following the year of the producer's death after which the work comes into the public domain.

Making digital copies of images

Although many images are already available in digital format from various sources, there are numerous images which are available only in paper or slide format. Such images which are covered by copyright can be scanned if they fall under the exceptions outlined in the following sections.

Showing digital images in classrooms

According to Section 29.4 of the Copyright Act, educators can, for the purposes of education or training, copy a work to display an image in the classroom or elsewhere on University premises. This includes data projectors (PowerPoint presentations). However, this exemption does not apply if the image is commercially available on the Canadian market in a medium that is appropriate for the intended purpose, and can be acquired within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price.

Images from commercial databases (ARTstor) for which the library has a licenced agreement can be used in classroom presentations.

Using digital images in a course website

Generally, it is necessary to obtain permission to copy as well as distribute a copyright protected work on the internet, unless it is from a licenced database or authorisation has been obtained from the copyright owner. However, it is also arguable that images can be used under the following conditions:

  • Using low resolution images or thumbnails which do not compete with the commercial interest of copyright owners
  • Linking to images rather than posting them on a class website
Exceptions for examinations

You can reproduce copyrighted images for a test or examination given on the premises of an educational institution. However, this exemption does not apply if the image is commercially available on the Canadian market in a medium that is appropriate for the intended purpose, and can be acquired within a reasonable time and for a reasonable price.

Using images in student papers

Fair dealing (Section 29.1) allows you to make copies of images that are copyright protected for the purposes of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, and review.

Using images in your own art work

The Copyright Act protects substantial parts of works which implies that insubstantial parts of copyrighted images can be used. However, there is no clear definition of what constitutes substantial or insubstantial. While some contemporary artists are proponents of using any images in the practice of appropriation art, such derivative works do not clearly enjoy the benefit of fair dealing. See the viewpoint of CARFAC, the Canadian Artist Representation/le Front des artistes canadiens.

Using images from the ARTstor database

Images in ARTstor can be used for classroom instruction and related classroom activities, student assignments and research, research activities of faculty, public display or public performance as part of a non-commercial scholarly or education presentation, in research and dissertations. Uses of images not permitted by ARTstor include: commercial - such as scholarly publications available for purchase - public performances, as well as adaptation of images for derivative works.

Using images on the internet

Although there are websites that allow free downloading of images, mostly for personal use only, many websites include copyrighted images. Permission to use images must be obtained from the copyright owner unless your use constitutes fair dealing.

The following Canadian website, prepared by the 2Learn.ca Education Society, provides an overview of how to determine the copyright status of images on the internet: Digital images and copyright.

It covers such questions as:

  • How to locate copyright statements on a website
  • What to do if you can't find a copyright statement on a website
  • Sample copyright statements for "free" images
  • Sample copyright statements for limiting use of images
  • Sample copyright statements for restricting use of images
page last updated on: Wednesday 26 August 2015
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