Legal Reminder: Determining Fair Use

In general, use of images created and published before 1923 is not a problem, as they are now considered to be in the public domain. Self-created images or photographs or images for which U.Va. or the Library owns the copyright are also available for use without further permission. Finally, small image sizes or “thumbnail” versions of an image can be used without concern. For all other images, copyright permission may be needed for publication, depending on the nature of the publication and its level of public dissemination. Whether permission is necessary depends on whether the use is acceptable under the principle of Fair Use. This requires a factual case-by-case inquiry that should be discussed with the Library’s copyright expert in the Office of the General Counsel, Madelyn Wessel (434.982.2941).

If you have determined that the image you wish to use is protected by copyright, you may send a letter to the copyright holder to request permissions. Such letters typically describe the type of use, the length of use, and other information, and require the written response of the permission holder. Be sure to keep the signed permission letter on file.

Download example of a copyright permission letter.

For questions on copyright, contact Madelyn Wessel.