Skip to main content

Still images

Definition of images

Images (artistic works) as defined in copyright legislation include:

  • building plans and blueprints
  • maps, charts and graphs
  • drawings, paintings and sculptures
  • photographs and illustrations

What is allowed?

You may copy an image without seeking permission:

  • for your own non-commercial private study or research
  • for examination purposes, including assessed essays, dissertations or theses or for illustration for instruction

These are allowed under fair dealing provisions in copyright law, and must meet the conditions.  You may not use images for other purposes unless they are covered by another statutory exception, are out of copyright, have permission in writing or email from the copyright owner, or covered by a licence or statement allowing the intended use. See the section below on images for teaching and learning purposes. 

When is permission required?

Copying images tends to be more restricted than most other types of copyright material to safeguard the rights of creators to profit from their work. You may need permission depending on your intended use and audience.

If images are not explicitly covered by a licence or a notice authorising copying, permission is required:

  • to copy images and use or display them for business or administrative purposes online or on the intranet
  • to include images in a published work 

The Jisc Digital Media website [now on the UK Web Archive] provides excellent advice and practical guides on finding and using images and other digital media for educational purposes. The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) and the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) are also useful and provide guidance on tracing the copyright owners of artistic works.  

What images can be used for teaching and learning purposes?

Brunel staff and students have access to images from many print and internet resources and subscription databases which may be used for teaching and learning purposes, subject to individual terms and conditions of use. Some useful image sources are given below.

The Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) Higher Education Copyright Licence may cover the limited use of images for educational purposes. See the Scanning web page for further information on the terms of the licence and procedures for obtaining authorisation.

To avoid potential copyright infringement or breach of contractual agreements, all staff and students are required to check terms and conditions of relevant licences or copyright statement thoroughly prior to use in all cases, to ensure that all intended uses of copyright material are covered. Where you are unsure of permitted uses, please ask the Copyright Officer.

Using images from print sources

Images contained in books, journals and magazines covered by the University's Higher Education Copyright Licence may be reproduced in print handouts, or may be disembedded from the text for use in the VLE or PowerPoint presentations. Images should be used in the context in which they were published.

Scanning images from CLA licensed material for use in Blackboard Learn or in PowerPoint presentations is permitted provided:

  • the source is acknowledged
  • has been published in the UK
  • and the work has not been excluded under the CLA Licence. 

Full page images should be recorded and reported to the Digital Readings Service and must be accompanied by the text of the CLA Copyright Notice in the Notes field, which will be supplied.

You should check whether a work is covered by the CLA Licence prior to copying as there are exclusions, which vary by format and country of publication. The CLA provide a Check permissions tool. More information about CLA licensed content can be found on the Scanning and Digital readings pages.

Using images from websites

Search engines, such as Google, are a common way of sourcing image content quickly, however,search engines index material on the Internet, irrespective of the copyright status. Therefore, you should be prepared to check the copyright status of any images you wish to use to be certain you can use them for your intended purpose.

Some sites may use third party copyright material unlawfully, sometimes inadvertently, however, further use of unauthorised content is infringement and anyone doing so will be liable, even if they are unaware of it. 

Therefore it is important to use reputable websites, and check thoroughly for rights information next to the image or in its metadata. You should also check the website's copyright notice and terms of use.  

Common locations would be in a disclaimer, copyright notice, or terms of use statement which are often found on the home page in navigation bars or links across the top or bottom of the page.

The section on image collections below contains links to sites with collections of images which may be used for some educational purposes, subject to individual terms and conditions. 

Images for blogging and social media

The Intellectual Property Office has published guidance which is useful for anyone who uses third party images, including bloggers and other social media users: Copyright notice: digital images, photographs and the internet, March 2014. Please contact the Copyright Officer for additional help.

Image collections for teaching and learning

Digital image collections on the internet

There are many image collections on the internet that allow free use for teaching purposes. Each has its own terms and conditions for use. Collections which may be useful to Brunel staff and students include:

  • collections in fine art, textiles, design, politics and other areas
  • CalPhotos: plants, animals, fossils, people and landscapes
  • Carl Giles Digital Archive: British newspaper cartoon images copyright cleared for educational use
  • Department of Energy Digital Photo Archive: thousands of energy related images
  • Free Images: a large variety of high quality photographic images covering sport, technology, buildings, the home and workplace
  • ImageBank: covers biosciences
  • National Archive of Geological Photographs: the British Geological Survey's collection of over 100,000 images
  • V&A Image Database: thousands of images of objects from the V and A's collections covering ceramics, fashion, furniture, glass, metalwork, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture, and textiles.

Image collections in subscription databases

The Library subscribes to many electronic databases, which contain collections of images. The subscription terms may include permission to use materials for non-commercial educational purposes in lecture presentations, handouts or the VLE. Please check terms and conditions prior to use.

Some databases which can be used for some, or all of the above, include:

  • Academic Search Complete: a US database covering text as well as images in several subject areas including anthropology, politics, sociology and psychology. Access via Databases A-Z.

Please let us know if you are aware of any collections of image resources which may be useful to list here.

Finding images for teaching and learning online

If you wish to develop your image searching skills, Jisc Digital Media provides a free online tutorial aimed at staff and students in education.

The tutorial is designed to help you learn techniques for finding copyright cleared images that can be used for teaching and learning quickly and efficiently.

We also have a guide for students wishing to use images which contains a section on where to find useful images online. 


The Ordnance Survey website offers considerable information regarding the copying of maps and the use of digital map data. Digital mapping data is available to subscribing Higher and Further Education institutions via the OS Digimap service