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Creating a Research Poster

This is a guide based on one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University Library

Fair Use

In some cases you can use a work that is not in the public domain without seeking permission.  This is known as "fair use."  The problem with fair use is that there is no way to be certain that yours is a fair use until a court decides.  However, like all rights, if you don't exercise fair use, then eventually you'll lose it.

Below are a few questions that you should ask yourself when trying to determine if your use of an image would be considered fair or not.  These "four factors" should be weighed against each other; no single one counts more heavily than another.  In general, using a small portion of another's work for educational purposes is considered fair.

What is the character of the use?  Is it for educational use or to criticize/parody, or do you hope to make some money?  Courts usually favor educational uses over commercial ones.

What is the nature of the work to be used?  Is it primarily factual, or imaginative?  Is the work published or unpublished?  Courts tend to rule against uses of creative works and those that have not yet been published.

How much of the work will you use?  Only a small amount, or a significant amount?  Amount is measured both quantitatively and qualitatively.  If you're only using a small portion of a work, the court is more likely to rule in your favor.

If this kind of use were widespread, what effect would it have on the market for the original?  Would the copyright owner be losing money?  Courts usually favor those uses with little or no adverse market effect.

For more on fair use, see the University of Texas' Four-Factor Guide.

Creative Commons

Content which has a Creative Commons license is free to download, adapt, distribute, and transmit without having to ask permission.  Depending on the license, however, there may be certain conditions: you may only be able to use the content for educational purposes, you may have to give attribution, etc.  (Licensing characteristics can be found to the left of this box).  Because licenses vary, always be sure to check the exact terms of the license before using an image.


   Attribution: others can use the work however they like, so long as they give credit

  No Derivative Work: other can copy, display, or perform your work, but it must be verbatim

  Non-Commercial: other can use your work, but for non-commercial purposes only

   Share Alike: others can distribute derivative works, but only under the same terms as the original license

Finding CC and Public Domain Images

Digital Images and Copyright (from Colgate University)

A brief guide to using digital images from the internet (and in general)


Best practices in fair use of dance related materials (Annotation from the Visual Resources Center, University of Texas, Austin)

The Dance Heritage Coalition has released a “Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-Related Materials: Recommendations for Librarians, Archivists, Curators, and Other Collections Staff.” Although specific to dance, the report is an excellent resource for information about copyright in general and fair use in particular of performing arts materials, both by patrons and especially by librarians in creating exhibitions and websites, format migration and preservation, and public performance.

Digital Image Rights Computator

An interactive program from the Visual Resources Association designed to assist users in determining the copyright status of a specific digital image


Stanford Copyright and Fair Use

Extensive information and examples of fair use cases from Stanford University.


United States Copyright Office

Basic information about copyright from the government

a Fair(y) Use Tale