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Art and Design & Art History

Image Databases

Issues to Consider

Scope of Database

Does the database focus on a particular subject or discipline? Is the database focused on current or historical images? Are the images taken by professionals or amateurs? You will use different image sources for different types of images.

Image Quality

You may be looking for high-quality images for use in your multimedia design projects. Images found on the web tend to be low-resolution, for speed of loading and ease of sharing. Try specialized image databases for higher-quality images.

Copyright Issues

Do not assume that just because an image is available on the web, you're permitted to use it in any way you wish. Creators of images (photographers, artists, illustrators, etc.) own copyright just as authors of books and articles do.

Some creators of images choose to make them available via what is known as a "Creative Commons License". This means that the individual has chosen to release some of their rights as the copyright holder to you, the user. They may specify, for example, that you may use the image for non-profit purposes as long as you credit the source.

Even without a creative commons license, for students' purposes (course projects) you are generally permitted to use images under a law known as "fair use," meaning that you are using them for educational purposes. However, there are a few rules of thumb for legal and ethical use of images:

DO provide a caption for the image, and an entry in your bibliography — you must cite an image just as you would cite a book or journal article

DON'T use more than 5 images by any one artist/photographer, and not more than 10% or 15 images from any one published collective work

DON'T disseminate your work by placing it on the web, or by publishing it (earning a profit from it), without first approaching the creators of the images to obtain permission. You will need to be even more aware of this when you become a practicing professionals, because your work will no longer fall under "fair use" law.

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