Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study

Rene Magritte's "The Lovers"

UMW Art Historian Marjorie Och recently sent around this Press Release from the Visual Resources Association’s Intellectual Property Rights Committee that seems to take a strong stand in asserting a rather broad and liberal interpretation of the fair use doctrine as it pertains to using images for teaching, research, and study. The statement even encourages sharing!

Points 3 through 6 below are especially important for us here at UMW given that we are in the middle of creating the third iteration of an online exhibit for Marjorie Och’s Venice Seminar. And this Press Release becomes a welcome touchstone for how far can we go when incorporating reproductions of paintings, film stills, more contemporary images of Venice, etc.

Read the entire press release below.


December 7, 2011

Contact: Visual Resources Association Intellectual Property Rights Committee


The Visual Resources Association, the international organization of image media professionals dedicated to furthering research and education in the field of image management, has released a Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study. The Statement describes six uses of copyrighted still images that the VRA believes fall within the U.S. doctrine of fair use. The six uses are: 1) preservation (storing images for repeated use in a teaching context and transferring images to new formats); 2) use of images for teaching purposes; 3) use of images (both large, high-resolution images and thumbnails) on course websites and in other online study materials; 4) adaptations of images for teaching and classroom work by students; 5) sharing images among educational and cultural institutions to facilitate teaching and study; and 6) reproduction of images in theses and dissertations.

This Statement on the Fair Use of Images draws from the academic community’s longstanding practice of relying on fair use for teaching and learning, and highlights one area – the use of images in theses and dissertations – where the Association believes the community should return to its previous practices of being more assertive. The Statement also relies heavily on recent fair use jurisprudence and aims to provide image users within the educational and cultural heritage communities with greater certainty when relying on fair use.

The Statement was developed by the VRA’s Intellectual Property Rights Committee, with the guidance of a Legal Advisory Committee of preeminent copyright scholars and legal experts, whose members include: Robert W. Clarida (Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman), Jeffrey P. Cunard (Debevoise & Plimpton LLP), Jackie Ewenstein (Ewenstein & Young LLP), Georgia K. Harper (Scholarly Communications Advisor, The University Libraries, University of Texas at Austin), Virginia Rutledge (PIPE Arts Group) and Jule Sigall (Associate General Counsel – Copyright, Microsoft; Formerly Associate Register for Policy & International Affairs, U.S. Copyright Office).

Maureen Burns, VRA President, noted the Association’s aims in producing the Statement: “An important aspect of VRA’s mission is to inform educational image users about, and to help form consensus around, best practices in the field of visual resources. These guidelines reflect a consensus (albeit largely unwritten to date) within the Association – and by extension the broader educational community – that the practices described within the guidelines are reasonable assertions of fair use. Our hope is that this document will help to ensure that images are robustly and widely used to facilitate uninhibited academic inquiry.”

* * * * *

For more information about the Statement, please visit the Intellectual Property Rights Committee page on the VRA website at http://www.vraweb.org or go directly to the document here: http://www.vraweb.org/organization/pdf/VRAFairUseGuidelinesFinal.pdf

Maureen Burns, Ed.D.

President, Visual Resources Association

This entry was posted in copyright and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study

  1. Pingback: Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study — Kaplak.net

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.