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Images and Media in Academic Research   Tags: academic research, images, media  

This guide will help you navigate how to ethically and legally use images, video, audio and new media in academic projects and papers.
Last Updated: Oct 8, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Copyright crash course from the University of Texas.


Creative Commons

Search for images that are available to be shared and reused:

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.

Most advanced searches on sites such as Google Images and Flickr allow you to refine your search to only images that have the Creative Commons license. 


Public Performance Rights

from Fairfield University's Copyright Resources:

Presentation to a Live Audience Outside Classroom Use

To legally show a video or DVD outside of the classroom (the class must be listed for the semester with the registrar) or Library (the video or DVD must be related to your course content unless the library owns the public performance rights), a Public Performance license must be purchased - regardless of whether an admission or other fee is charged. This includes movies to be shown:

  • at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts
  • to any audience other than an official class

This legal requirement applies equally to profit-making organizations and non-profit institutions (Senate Report No. 94-473, page 59; House Report No. 94-1476, page 62).

Showings of videos without a license, even innocent or inadvertent infringers, are subject to substantial civil damages ($750 to $30,000 for each illegal showing) and other penalties (Sections 502-505).

For more information on showing movies on campus, or securing Public Performance rights, contact Karen Connolly at ext. 2724, or


Treat media like the printed word

F.A.Q. for Using Images and Media in Research

1.  I'm using an image in my paperDo I need to cite it?

2.  I watched a documentary and I'll be writing about it in my paper.  Do I need to cite it?

3.  I got an image off the Internet that I'm using in my paper.  That's legal, right?

4.  What is fair use and why do I have to worry about copyright?

5.  My club on campus is going to screen a film as a fundraiser
We're going to advertise only on Facebook.  As long as we do it on campus it's ok, right?

6. Where can I go on campus to find help with images?


Using media (images, audio, video) in papers and presentations adds a dynamic element to your research.  This guide helps you make decisions so you are using the content both legally and ethically.  Below are some answers to frequently asked questions (F.A.Q.):

1. You should cite images the same way you cite words from an article or book you read.  Each of our citation style guides contain basic information about citing Images and Media. 

2.  Films and other media have to be cited the same as images or words.  Each of our citation style guides contain basic information about citing Media.  For more background on how to cite media, visit UC Berkeley's excellent site dedicated to the topic.

3. If you're acquiring images or other media to use in papers or projects, make sure it's legal.  Fair Use can cover use of images within the confines of the classroom, but it's still wise to know the restrictions of the copyright on the image.  For risk-free image usage, try acquiring images with a Creative Commons license.

4. Fair Use has been definted by U.S. courts for the following : criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research and parodies.  Learn more about Fair Use hereLearn more about Copyright by taking the University of Texas' crash course here.

5. If you are showing a film outside of the classroom, even if it is free and on campus, you must obtain Public Performance Rights for the film.  If it is an independent film, you may get permission directly from the filmmaker.  Usually, you must pay a fee to a company in order to show the film.  Fairfield's Public Performance Rights information is located here.  

6.  You should check with your professor or a librarian if you have questions about finding images or media for your research.  This guide is a first step in that process and will guide you to quality sites to explore.  If you need help manipulating images or media, the University's public computer labs have software for every job.  See Fairfield's lab and software list here.


Fairfield University's Copyright Resources

According to Fairfield University's Mission statement, our "primary objectives are to develop the creative, intellectual potential of our students, and to foster in them ethical and religious values and a sense of social responsibility."

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Fair Use

from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)...

What is Fair Use?

In essence, fair use is a limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright holders. The Copyright Act gives copyright holders the exclusive right to reproduce works for a limited time period. Fair use is a limitation on this right. A use which is considered "fair" does not infringe copyright, even if it involves one of the exclusive rights of copyright holders. Fair use allows consumers to make a copy of part or all of a copyrighted work, even where the copyright holder has not given permission or objects to your use of the work. 

To keep up on the current legal aspects of Fair Use, see Stanford University's Fair Use page.

To see Best Practices guides on different types of literature and popular media, see American University's site.


VRA Fair Use


A service of the Library that offers open access to the collected scholarship and creative works of Fairfield University faculty, students and staff.

Includes images and media from:


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