Join the club. It’s not like we haven’t heard about fair use on the Internet for two decades, now, but laws are so confusing to understand, let alone implement. You really want to use a good image on your blog or newsletter or even in Blackboard for your students for visual interest, but you don’t want to get a cease and desist letter from some big law firm. Well, there are a few ways to get started looking for images that are safe–but that still may have a few rules:
Pics4Learning is a good site created by and for educators: http://www.pics4learning.com/ Pay attention to whether usage requires giving attribution, as on the photo of alligators and a heron in the Everglades.
The Flickr Commons is a good place for public historical photos, but it has more current ones, also: http://www.flickr.com/commons?GXHC_gx_session_id_=6afecb2055a3c52c See the photo of a house built in 1819 in Montreal, owned by the Musée McCord Museum, but with no known copyright.
Then there is the Flickr Creative Commons, where photos have Creative Commons licenses and may ask you to show attribution. These are more current photos: http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ The photo of the tracks at Grinnell college is from J. Neuberger’s Photostream and requires attribution.
There is Creative Commons itself, where you can read about their licenses and also search for content on a variety of Web locations. Click on Find: http://creativecommons.org/
The American Memory section of the Library of Congress is very interesting. Most of its photos are copyright free, because photos taken by the government cannot be copyrighted. In rare instances, the photographer can be identified and the photo may now belong to a museum, but that is rare. Good for historical photos: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html The photo of a mining operation in Washington, for example, is not know to have any copyright restrictions, according to the LOC, but it also acknowledges that an owner may come forward in the future–so attribute with all the LOC information that seems pertinent.
Just about everything on Google images is copyright protected. You can search for copyright-free images, but may still run into ones you shouldn’t use. The reason using them is not fair use, is that once you put it on Blackboard or anywhere online, students can download it—and that is distribution. It would be different if you were just showing it in class or passing around a copy. Distribution is what violates copyright
Here are a couple of links to copyright information, but this statement is key: ” Fair use ends when the multimedia creator loses control of his product’s use, such as when it is accessed by others over the Internet.”