Art and Other Images

Copyright law protects art, photography, and other images on generally the same terms that the law protects all other forms of original works. Questions often arise about the general nature of copyright in this context, as well as fair use and the appropriate uses of protected images in connection with teaching, research, and other activities. These images might range from classic works of art to photographs to drawings of medical procedures. Regardless of their type, copyright issues arise for all of these works.

The information and resources on this page provide background about the legal issues around using art and other images, and provide links to some of the quirky and interesting developments in the world of art.

For a list of online image databases that provide publicly accessible images that are openly available without charge to users, see the following page:

Art and Copyright Law: Website Resources

The websites compiled below offer a variety of resources exploring the relationship between art and copyright law. These websites are geared toward a number of different audiences – artists, museum professionals, educators, and librarians—whose work may require an understanding of the copyright laws and policies affecting works of art. While these sites are offered as a starting point for those seeking additional resources on art and copyright law, the Copyright Advisory Office does not guarantee the accuracy of the information included on these sites.

American Library Association Copyright Advisory Network: Art Copyright Questions

An open bulletin board hosted by the ALA Office of Information and Technology Policy’s Copyright Advisory Network, intended to provide art-related copyright support to librarians and libraries.

American Society of Media Photographers

An association for photographers who create works primarily for publication, the ASMP promotes photographers’ rights and provides educational resources for photographers relating to copyright.

The Appropriate Art Coalition

A coalition of over 600 Canadian artists, curators, educators, and others from the art community concerned with the state of copyright policy for artists and the future of Appropriate Art.

Artists Rights Society

A copyright licensing and monitoring organization for visual artists in the United States, representing the intellectual property interests of more than 50,000 visual artists and their estates.

Center for Social Media

Part of American University’s School of Communication. The Center for Social Media’s resources include fair use best-practices for dance-related materials and documentary film.

Copyright and Art Issues

A compilation of government documents, conference materials, guidelines, policies, and resource links relating to copyright and art issues.

Harvard Law School: Art Law Image Rights

Provides resources on copyright, moral rights, and resale right of artists.

National Coalition Against Censorship: Art Law Library: Copyright and Fair Use

A compilation of court decisions regarding art and copyright.

Rights and Reproductions Information Network Wiki

Co-sponsored by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the American Association of Museums’ Rights and Reproductions Information Network (RARIN) taskforce, the RARIN Wiki serves as resource for individuals involved museums’ rights and reproduction management.

Visual Resources Association

A multi-disciplinary organization to further research and education in the field of image management within the educational, cultural, heritage, and commercial environments. The VRA’s “Resources” page offers copyright resources developed by the organization’s Intellectual Property Rights Committee.

Art and Copyright: Always Interesting, Often Unusual

Below are some interesting examples of works of art and artists that have implicated issues of copyright and intellectual property.

After Sherrie Levine

Barbara Kruger

Famous Painters Copied Photographs

Food Chain Barbie – Tom Forsythe Art & Photography

Illegal Art

Jeff Koons

Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp

Richard Prince Art

Shepard Fairey vs the Associated Press


Most recent revision: 110409



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