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BME 185 Technical Writing for Biomolecular Engineers

What to know about images and copyright

- I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice -

For any images where you are not the creator:

  1. You can use the image for analysis, discussion, explanation. Be sure to attribute (provide a citation). Be sure to not use more of the image than is necessary for this purpose. 
  2. If the image is more for aesthetic reasons, make sure you have permission to use the image, either through a Creative Commons license, or the creator's written permission, or the image is in the public domain (explicitly stated). You can use Google Image Search for instantly available images.
  3. Consider where your work will live afterwards. Is this a presentation that will be saved on SlideShare or your website? Then it is especially important you can make the argument that you have permission to use the images (#1 or #2 above). A presentation that is not preserved or posted online carries a lower risk. 

For images where YOU are the creator:

  1. Consider applying a Creative Commons license so that other scholars can know how they use your work. 

Using Google to Find Images

Google Images is a powerful way to search for images, especially using the advanced search by clicking on Tools. You can search for a specific size, type (eg line drawing) and usage rights. Example below. The usage rights are listed here by Google in order of reusable in most circumstances to least reusable. Often once you get to the image, it may have a Creative Commons license, CC-BY and CC-BY-NC being the most common. In those two cases, the creator is telling you that you are free to use the image with attribution. NC equals non-commercial use. 

google image search tool

Citing Images

The following websites detail various citing situations with images (e.g. tables, figures, graphs). 

Citing tables, figures and images: APA (6th ed.) citation guide, by Simon Fraser University Library.

Citing and referencing: Figures and Tables, Monash University Library.

Example of labeling a figure within a paper:


Keep Track!

Where did that image come from? Don't lose track! 

Decide on a file naming system that makes sense to you eg krebs_pyruvate_detail_ccby.png

You can drag the image to a location in your Zotero library, and enter any necessary citation information (look for a box that says "rights" or "extra" to add information you'll need later to keep track).