Cornell Library's perspective
Please note that the Cornell University Library does not require its users to seek permission to publish public domain items digitized from its collections. This does not apply to images Cornell licenses from other institutions or corporations. Consult with other digital image collection owners, such as the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, about their policies. Here are Cornell's official guidelines. The Library does not charge usage fees, nor does it grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise use public domain materials.
Copyright vs. Permissions
The guidelines offered here should be taken as suggestions, not as legal statements.
The re-use of images for educational purposes (not including print or electronic publication of any kind) is generally considered acceptable under the terms of fair use. If you wish to publish images online or in print, even if for educational purposes, you will first need to determine whether or not the image is protected by copyright, then find out how to get copyright clearance.
Password-controlled web sites with access limited to the Cornell University community generally fall within the bounds of educational fair use.
When in doubt, consult the Cornell University Fair Use Checklist or the Fair Use Definition (U.S. Code TITLE 17, Chapter 1, Sec. 107).
You may also need to obtain permission to publish from the institution that owns the image in question, whether or not the image is in the public domain. This is particularly the case for images found in licensed databases, such as Artstor. Artstor has a very clearly-worded permissions statement, as do other licensed databases. In most cases, you will need to write to the institution that owns the physical image (that Artstor, for instance, includes) and request permission to publish it. There is often a fee associated with acquiring permission to publish.
Example of a museum statement on rights, terms and permissions of image use for works in its collections:
Example of an image licensing company:
- Art Resource (manages licensing for major art museums and archival collections)
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons "provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry." You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."