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Copyright and Image Use

Using high-quality images is important when creating digital educational content. This guide includes information about image permissions, creative commons licensing, and required attributions.

This document will guide you through the process of selecting images that:

  • Are the proper quality for the online environment.
  • Have the proper permissions/licensing to use online.

For more information, contact Rebecca Rumbel, Technical Communications Specialist: rar160@psu.edu.

Image Quality

Recommended images are at a minimum of 900 pixels wide at 72dpi.

Other ways to think about image quality:

  • Look at the image full size on your screen. If it looks clear and crisp, you can probably use it. If it looks fuzzy or pixelated, etc., then it’s not a good choice.
  • When selecting images for courses, provide us with your biggest and best image. We can then resize and adjust them as needed.

Permissions

In the copyright world, having permission is equivalent to licensing. You can obtain permission for an image a number of ways.

Use your own images

  • Attribution: Your name, Penn State

Use images from another Penn State employee

Check with the employee for permission.

  • Attribution: Name, Penn State
  • NOTE: If an extension educator/staff is NOT technically employed by Penn State, you must ask for permission for images authored by that person. Follow the recommendations for “Obtain permission from other sources” (see below).

Purchase images from a stock photo company

  • Search the site for relevant images.
  • Set up an account, buy and download images.
  • Example: Bigstockphoto.com
    • Attribution: Name of artist / bigstockphoto.com
      • e.g. Leonard Zhukovsky / bigstockphoto.com

Use images with a Creative Commons license

To play it safe, only use the “Attribution – BY” (CC BY) or the "Attribution-NonCommercial" (CC BY-NC) licenses:

  • If you modify an image, you must note that in your attribution. Modifications include: cropping a photo, changing color, using the image in a collage, or putting text over an image.
  • Flickr Attribution:  title / author / source / CC license
  • Wikimedia Commons Attribution: title / author / CC license / source 
    • Example: "Wheat-kernel nutrition" by Jkwchui - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Use images in the Public Domain

  • Attribution is generally NOT required; however, Penn State best practice is to still provide it.
  • Creative Commons CC0 label is used by authors to waive copyright and dedicate their work to the public domain.
    • Attribution: title / author / source / is in the public domain
    • Example (unknown title): FraukeFeind on pixabay.com is in the public domain
    • [public domain hyperlinked to http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/]
  • Public Domain Mark (PDM) label indicates the work is free of known copyright restrictions. Typically, this label applies to old works whose copyright has expired or to works not entitled to copyright protection (such as most federal documents).

Obtain permission from other sources

If you have an image from a colleague, another university, or an external organization obtain written permission from them. See the “Permission Template” at the end of this document.

  • Keep a record of this written permission for a minimum of 3 years.
  • If you are working on an online course, provide this permission to the course development team.
  • Attribution: Ask how they prefer to be credited
    • Minimum attribution (unless they are faculty and specify to not be credited): Name, name of institution

Government Resources

Most works created by state and federal government employees as part of their work are in the public domain, although some may have specific copyrights. For works that are in the public domain, Penn State best practice is to provide an attribution. If the work is copyrighted, you will need to obtain permission to use it.

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service Image Library has many high-quality digital photographs on varied agricultural subjects available from the Agricultural Research Service. Photos are copyright-free, public domain images unless otherwise indicated.
    • Attribution: photographer (if available) / US Department of Agriculture
  • NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Photo Gallery contains natural resource and conservation related photos from across the USA. Images are freely available and must be credited to NRCS.
    • Attribution: Photo by (photographer’s name), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory Image Gallery is a collection of photographs and scientific images related to renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
    • Attribution: photographer (if available) / National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • US Government Photos and Images has many images available in the public domain or as US government works. Please check permissions for each photo, however, as some are copyrighted.

Image Resources

  • Flickr is a searchable site of images with creative commons licenses. See above for information of appropriate CC licenses.
  • Pixabay is a searchable site of images in the public domain (CC0).
  • Wikimedia Commons is a searchable site of images with creative commons licenses. See above for information of appropriate CC licenses.
  • Penn State Flickr Website is a searchable site of many Penn State related images.
  • Penn State Ag Sciences Flickr Website contains images from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Penn State Free Media Resources  provides information about digital media use and links to free media libraries.
  • New York Public Library Digital Collections provides access to over 700,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library.
  • Insect Images has an extensive collection of entomology photos.
    • Attribution: Photographer’s Name, Organization, Bugwood.org
  • Farm Energy provides images contributed by farmers, researchers, industry, and educators. They are available under Creative Commons licensing CC BY-NC 3.0.
  • MaxPixel provides free stock photos, licensed under Creative Commons CC0. Although attribution is not required, Penn State best practice is to provide attributions.
  • UNL Image Collections is a collection of insect photos taken by the UNL Entomology Department.
    • Attribution: Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Photographer (if listed)
  • Internet Archive Book Images, part of flickr.com, is building a digital library of cultural artifacts.

Where to put attributions

  • Videos: Include attribution information for all images on an end slide. List each slide with an image to credit by number. Use a minimum 12 pt. font size. See the image credit slide example below.
  • Other products, such as web content, course content, print resources, and PowerPoints: Include the attribution information below the image. Create web links for the title, author, and licenses. See the example below.

Image credit slide example for videos

Image credit example for other products

Credit: “Corner Farm” by Nicholas A. Tonelli on flickr.com Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Record Keeping

According to Penn State’s General Retention Schedule policy, you must keep records of your permissions for three (3) years.

You must keep track of the images you download, purchase, and use in your products.

Record this information in an Excel spreadsheet, which you can download here.

Record-keeping Example for Learn Now Video Images:

SlideImage TitleAuthor/PhotographerSourcePermissionsLinkDownload Date
1 "Logging" Steve Williams Penn State University
2 "Cherry Run Game Lands (Revisit)(3)" Nicholas A. Tonelli / Nicholas_T flickr.com CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicholas_t/11597902234/in/dateposted/ 6/9/16
3 "Tulip tree in autumn" Wkimedia Commons Licensed under CCO https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liriodendron_tulipifera_Fall.jpg 7/8/16
4 "Sleeping dog" High Contrast - own work Wikimedia Commons Licensed under CC BY 3.0 DE https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sleeping_dog.JPG 7/8/16
5 Skeeze pixabay.com CCO https://pixabay.com/en/child-playing-quiet-dirt-girl-kid-851806/ 6/1/16
6 "Ag Extension" John Doe XYZ University Granted permission via email
7 Scott Bauer US Department of Agriculture http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/aug00/k8991-1.htm 7/8/16
8 Bob Nichols USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services http://photogallery.nrcs.usda.gov/netpub/server.np?find&catalog=catalog&template=detail.np&field=itemid&op=matches&value=5897&site=PhotoGallery

7/8/16

 

9 Warren Gretz National Renewable Energy Laboratory https://images.nrel.gov/bp/#/folder/207356#6307841

Permission Template

Template for use in Online Courses

Dear X,

I'm writing to request permission to use the following content in an online course offered by Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences:

Complete citation

The course is titled XXXX. Content will include full attribution and be available through our online course management systems. Access is password protected, and will be limited to course enrollment.

I appreciate you taking the time to consider this request. Please contact me if you can grant permission and if you have any other questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

X

Example

Dear Mr. Miller,

I'm writing to request permission to use the following content in an online course offered by Penn State Extension:

Image of tree stumps with marked ages at this link: http://renewforest.com/rfs/baseimages/treerings.jpg

The course is titled Teach for Forests, and this image will be used in a section on silviculture. Content will include full attribution and be available through our online course management systems. Access is password protected, and will be limited to course enrollment.

I appreciate you taking the time to consider this request. Please contact me if you can grant permission and if you have any other questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Rumbel

Template for use in Learn Now videos and other products

Dear X,

I'm writing to request permission to use the following content in a [video, curriculum packet, etc.] offered by Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences:

Complete citation

The [video, curriculum packet, etc.] is titled XXXX. Content will include full attribution and be available through our website.

I appreciate you taking the time to consider this request. Please contact me if you can grant permission and if you have any other questions or concerns.

 Sincerely,

X

PDF, 442.6 KB

Download this guide as a PDF.

Microsoft Excel, 10.9 KB

Use this spreadsheet to record image information and permissions for all images you acquire for presentations, videos and other educational uses.

PDF, 1.7 MB

Here you can download the presentation slides from the Copyright and Image Use webinar that took place in August 2016.

Learn to search for images online that will enhance your educational content and protect you from a copyright lawsuit.