Copyright Guidelines

(Adapted from the Visual Resources Association Image Collection Guidelines as published by the VRA Committee on Intellectual Property Rights, developed with the assistance of Georgia Harper of the Office of Legal Counsel for the University of Texas. View VRA resources on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Copyright.

Many educational disciplines are dependent upon the use of illustrative images for teaching purposes. Visual resources collections that support those disciplines strive to assemble the best resources in terms of technical quality, fidelity to the underlying work, accuracy of basic identifying information, and flexibility of access and utilization. The development and use of these resources should be guided by the following principles in regard to acquisition, attribution, access, and responsibility.

The acquisition and use of image resources, as any other intellectual property, is governed by legal conditions, as well as by practical, technical, and scholarly considerations. Intellectual property law, including the concept of Copyright, attempts to balance the sometimes competing interests of those who produce or provide such resources, and those who use them. It is the intent of this Guide to direct the Miami University Visual Resources professional in acquiring image resources for educational, non-profit use in compliance with the letter and spirit of U.S. Copyright Law and the Fair Use Statute, the purpose of which is “to promote the progress of science and useful arts”, (U. S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 8) while respecting the rights and concerns of providers.

A. Acquisition

Acquisition of visual resources falls into several categories: purchase and license, donation, and copystand photography.

  1. The Slide Curator may purchase, license, or otherwise legally acquire the following in developing permanent archives of images:
    • slides or digital files from museums, galleries or other such institutions
    • slides or digital files from vendors and image providers
    • original on-site photography produced for sale by professional or other skilled photographers.
    • slides or digital files distributed on a free-use basis through recognized educational or professional institutions, organizations, and consortia.
  2. Gifts and donations are considered legitimate forms of acquisition, even though they may be subject to restrictions or requirements by the donors. Gifts will be accepted at the discretion of the Curator. It is recommended that donors of original photographic images in whatever form be encouraged to grant in writing to the recipient institution discretionary rights over extended use (including rights to digitize or transfer to other current formats), as well as physical custody, of the photographic materials. Donors will be asked to identify the source and rightsholders of any images they offer. Information about donations will be forwarded to the Development Office, as required by university policy.
  3. Images created by copystand photography or scanned from published materials for inclusion in the permanent archive are subject to the following considerations:
    • images of suitable quality are not reasonably available from any of the options listed above
    • images are specifically required for a course taught at Miami University
    • images will not be shared between or among other educational institutions if such use is prohibited by the terms of their acquisition.
    • images will be used for comment, criticism, review, analysis, discussion, or other similar purposes associated with instruction or scholarship
    • images will be used for purposes that are both nonprofit and educational
    • analog images are available and permission to scan has been granted by the copyright holder or commercial provider.

    If these conditions can be met, it is believed that making images and digital files from published materials will be within "fair use" as outlined in the Copyright Act of 1976. Acquisition for uses outside the understood parameters described above, such as use on an unrestricted Web site or in print publications, including scholarly publications, is not covered in this document. It will be the individual user’s responsibility to determine whether their desired use of images in our collection is a fair use. For such uses to be considered fair, they must be judged independently and individually, using the four-factor analysis described in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. The four factors to be considered in determining if a use is a fair use are: (1) purpose and character of the use; (2) nature of the copyrighted work; (3) amount and substantiality of the material used; and (4) the effect on the market.

  4. Public Domain images (those in which neither the underlying work of art documented nor the photographic reproduction itself is subject to copyright) may be safely acquired by any appropriate means, including copystand photography or scanning. Use of such images is unrestricted.

B. Attribution

To the extent that such information is available, images acquired for Miami University’s permanent image collection should have the following information on record:

  • source of image
    year of acquisition
  • in the case of a purchased or licensed image, the provider's inventory  or identifying number or code.
  • copyright notice requested by the copyright holder

C. Access

Images are available for nonprofit educational purposes for Miami University faculty, students, and staff. While the traditional means of display for images has been through projection, or otherwise viewing the physical surrogate (photograph, slide, video, film), the introduction of new technologies, specifically the digital environment of the Internet and the World Wide Web, has expanded the display options. There is little in the way of legal precedent, code, or case law which addresses the issues particular to educational image archives. However, it seems reasonable to expect that digital materials should be available to the same user group that the analog collection serves, for the same purposes.

Lawfully acquired analog materials may be used in digital format as follows:

  • Images purchased or licensed are subject to the conditions specified at the time of purchase or according to license agreement.
  • Gifts and donations are subject to restrictions made at the time of contribution. In addition, a gift of images purchased by the donor may be subject to the conditions of the original purchase.
  • Images made by copystand photography may be digitized and used digitally according to the same criteria under which they were originally acquired for analog use.
  • Technological protection will be instituted to prevent usage of the resources by individuals outside the Miami University community.

D. Responsibility

At Miami University, the Slide Curator is responsible for carrying out the principles outlined above. A budget sufficient to make purchases described above should be allocated. The Curator will make these guidelines available by link to Web sites with the collection’s digital images and physically in the Visual Resources Collection.

It will be the individual user’s responsibility to determine whether their desired use of our images is a fair use. Any copying or scanning of slides or digital images in the collection should be done only with the approval of the Curator. Information on source data will be made available to the collection users to help in determining acceptable uses of the resources.

This policy may be revised, if necessary, upon the development of an institution-wide policy at Miami University.

Astrid R. Otey, Slide Curator