Image Collections Online: Copyright


Generally, art works are covered by copyright during the life of the artist plus 70 years.  If a photograph is first published in a book published before 1923, it is not under copyright protection and you can use the image. Here is a handy chart that lays out when works pass into the public domain:

Copyright information for materials created in the United States:

Here are selected resources available to all, with the exception of the Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office which is only to be used by Columbia University students, faculty and staff. 

Columbia University Copyright Advisory Office (  Director of the Copyright Advisory Office:  Rina Elster Pantalony (
Office hours are now held from 10am to noon every Tuesday.  Come to Room 507D of the Butler Library if you are part of the Columbia University community and have questions about copyright law.

College Art Association’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts ( (pdf to download):
Provides visual-arts professionals with a set of principles addressing best practices in the fair use of copyrighted materials.

College Art Association. Standards & Guidelines: Intellectual Property: Image sources and rights clearance agencies.
Gives sources that provide images for a wide range of uses, including academic and scholarly use, with a focus on images suitable for publication. The current movement to make images in the public domain available without charge for use in academic publications is gaining momentum among cultural institutions and libraries. The increasing availability of high-resolution images combined with changes in scholarly publishing practice grounded in the principles of fair use, allows artists and scholars greater flexibility when using copyrighted material. The College Art Association no longer requires authors who publish in its journals to obtain permissions for the use of images and other third-party works if they determine, in good faith, that use of such third-party works is a fair use under US copyright law.

Visual Resources Association Intellectual Properties Rights (
Offering resources providing guidance on academic use of images.

Artists' Rights Society (
Negotiates and Administers Rights for Contemporary Artists and Artists' Estates

U.S. Copyright Office Guide to Copyright Registration for Visual Arts   ( (pdf to download)

U.S. Copyright Office ( (pdf to download): 
Helps you find information about a copyright holder.

U.S. Copyright Office's Fair Use Definition (

Digital Image Rights Computator (
DIRC is intended to assist the user in assessing the intellectual property status of a specific image documenting a work of art, a designed object, or a portion of the built environment. Understanding the presence or absence of rights in the various aspects of a given image will allow the user to make informed decisions regarding the intended educational uses of that image.

Copyright Slider (
Try this if you have a publication or creation date and want to know how to assess its copyright protection status.

Copyright information for materials created outside of the United States and orphan works:

See for information about foreign works.




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