Securing Image Rights for your Publication

Scholarly publications often include images. From reproductions of fine art to scientific graphs, images can enhance an author’s work in many ways. Most publishers require images with a resolution of at least 300 ppi, so using clear, high quality images is imperative. However, there are many copyright and intellectual property concerns when using images, and the process of obtaining permission can be complicated and can require a large amount of time and occasionally money from the author. The following blog post provides a walk-through, as well as tips and resources, for obtaining image permissions. We suggest following a four-step procedure to facilitate the process of securing image use permission: 

  1. Identifying permission needs
  2. Identity the rights owner
  3. Identify the rights needed
  4. Contact the owner and negotiate if necessary

As copyright and terms of reuse can vary greatly per image, the permissions attainment process begins with identifying your permission needs.

Identifying Permission Needs

Not all images require written permission for use. An image can be freely used if it is in the public domain, has a Creative Commons (CC) license, or qualifies for fair use. In general, all works first published in the United States before 1925 are part of the public domain. Cornell University’s Public Domain Chart provides a clear and thorough resource for determining if  an image first published in the United States is in the public domain. A list of other countries’ copyright durations is available from Wikipedia. Keep in mind that even if a work is public domain, an image of that work is not necessarily in the public domain. For example, while the works of Shakespeare are in the public domain, a museum’s image of a particular folio may have different rights. Be sure to confirm that your image, and not just the original work, are in the public domain. 

One way to do this is to check for the Public Domain Mark:

The letter "C" inside a circle with a slash-through (Public Domain Mark)

The Creative Commons public domain designation enables them to donate their work to the public domain. If the image you wish to use is marked with a Creative Commons license, you do not need to ask permission to use it in your publication. 

There are also many different types of CC licenses, so be sure to determine the use parameters of your specific CC-licensed image. These include Attribution (BY), ShareAlike (SA), NoDerivs (ND), NonCommercial (NC), and various combinations thereof. The Creative Commons’s webpage provides information about each CC license to clarify and differentiate between the various CC licenses. 

Use of an image for purposes of criticism, commentary, research, or teaching might also qualify as a fair use, an overview and definition of which can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index webpage, is a fact-dependent limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright owners. For additional guidance on whether your use of an image is a potential fair use, refer to the IU Libraries guide on fair use, or contact the Head of the Libraries’ Copyright Program, Naz Pantaloni (nazapant@indiana.edu)

Asking for Permission

The first step in asking for permission is to identify the rights owner. Keep in mind that the creator and the rights owner are not necessarily the same. Sometimes the rights owner will be clearly marked. For example, if the image’s metadata reads “Copyright 2020, Indiana University Press”, then you would contact Indiana University Press to request permission. Others are more difficult, and require some research to determine the rights owner. Tips for researching the rights owner include: looking for contact information, checking for a watermark, checking the image’s metadata, and doing a Google reverse image search. Resources like the the US Copyright office, which provides a database where you can search the copyright of a particular image, can help identity the rights owner. 

After the rights owner is identified, you must determine the rights you need. Be sure to consider medium, duration, language, and territory. Your publisher may have required rights for image use, so be sure to confirm with them before contacting the rights owner. Once you have identified the rights owner, you can contact the rights owner and formally request permission to use the image. While each situation will differ, Oxford Journals’ template permission request letter and Georgetown University’s sample permission request letter provide possible examples of how to structure a request letter. Be prepared for patience after contacting the rights owner; many publishers can take between 4-6 weeks to respond, if at all. Also be prepared for fees, as rights owners may ask you to pay to use the images; you can, however, try to negotiate fees with the rights owner. 

Be sure to have a back-up plan, as even if you have followed all of the steps, the rights owner may either not respond or deny your request. The following section provides resources for finding open images, as well as suggested best practices to follow during the permissions process. 

Conclusion and tips/resources

While securing image use permissions can be complicated, there are several ways to help the process go more smoothly. The first is to focus on finding open images, thus nullifying the need to obtain permission. Wikimedia Commons hosts a repository of free-use images and Georgetown University provides a helpful list of places to find open images. If you do have to ask permission, be sure to plan ahead and keep clear and thorough documentation of all correspondences. It is best to ask for non-exclusive, worldwide rights for the lifetime of the image in both print and electronic formats. This assures that you will not have to re-obtain permissions for any reprints, translations, etc. of your publication. Also be sure to keep all original citation information for each image, to expedite your captioning. While the permissions process will look different for each author, these guidelines facilitate the process. They can also serve as a useful resource for journal managers and editors to provide to authors. 

Additional information on using images is available in this guide to using images from the IU LIbraries Copyright Program. For further questions or concerns regarding using images in scholarly publication, please contact Copyright Program,  Naz Pantaloni, at nazapant@indiana.edu.

IU Libraries Partners with MDPI Open Access Program

MDPI open logo

IU Libraries recently partnered with the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) as part of their Institutional Open Access Program (IOAP), joining over 550 other institutions. Founded in 2010, MDPI is a publisher of open access scientific journals, meaning that all research outputs are openly licensed and disseminated without barriers, financial or otherwise. Open access publishing is occasionally accompanied with an article processing charge, or APC, which helps offset publishing costs traditionally covered by subscription fees. As part of MDPI’s open access program, researchers from partner institutions receive a 10% discount on their APC when publishing with MDPI. For those interested in publishing with MDPI, the following provides a walkthrough of their submission process, including when and how to apply your IU-affiliated APC discount. 

MDPI’s open access program grants free access to their Submission System (SuSy). MDPI aims to “provide libraries and central offices additional control and transparency over papers submitted to [their] journals, and provide early notification of potential costs involved with the submissions.” New users must register with their IU email. Once registered and logged in, researchers can submit a manuscript for publication following MDPI’s 5-step submission process.

Steps 1 and 2 include inputting manuscript and author information, respectively. Authors suggest three peer reviewers in Step 3 and upload their manuscript in either a Word or ZIP file format in Step 4. Step 5 completes the process and sends a confirmation to the journal’s editors. It is here where authors will be prompted to designate their IOAP partnership and any applicable discounts. Authors will be provided with a drop-down box where they can select IU as their institution and receive the discount. 

drop down menu of IOAP partner institutions
Sample drop-down menu of IOAP partner institutions

Once Indiana University is selected, the APC discount will be automatically processed. IU’s partnership with MDPI is non-centralized, so the remaining APC will be invoiced directly to the author. In addition to MDPI, IU has also partnered with Frontiers, which provides a 7.5% discount for IUB affiliates, and SpringerOpen/BioMed Central, which provides a 15% discount. For additional APC support, authors can apply for IU’s Open Access Article Publishing Fund, which provides scholars up to $2,000 per year to cover open access APCs. For further questions regarding APCs, the IOAP partnership, or publishing with MDPI, see MDPI’s IOAP FAQ page or contact iusw@indiana.edu.

Major Open Scholarship Website Update Includes New Open Education Tab

IU Libraries’ Open Scholarship website, an overview of open scholarship services provided by the Scholarly Communication department, recently underwent a major update. One of the  most notable changes to the site is the addition of the Open Education tab, which provides information on the library’s services regarding Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are teaching and learning resources shared under an open license, usually a Creative Commons license, that renders them compatible with the 5Rs of Open Education; they can be retained, reused, revised, remixed, and redistributed in perpetuity and without restrictions. OER provide free course materials to students, which help combat the rising price of textbooks (the average student at IUB spends over $1,000 on textbooks per year). The customizable nature of OER allows them to be closely tailored to specific courses and better reflect current events and new discoveries. While it can difficult to navigate implementing the right OER into your classroom, the Scholarly Communication department can help instructors find, evaluate, and create OER. The following is a detailed synopsis of the new open education tab, intended to help patrons understand the process of incorporating open education and OER into their pedagogy. This process often begins with searching for pre-existing OER to include in your course.

Screenshot of Open Education tab on Open Scholarship website

 

Find

There are many ways to approach finding OER. One possible starting point is to search for keywords in conjunction with “open educational resources” in your preferred search engine. There are also several OER repositories that can help streamline the process: the Open Education tab’s “find” subsection provides a list of some of our favorite repositories, and the IU OER LibGuide contains several other suggested resources. The LibGuide also provides access to the Mason OER Metafinder (MOM), which searches across several OER repositories. Often, there are many potentially relevant OER and choosing the right option for your classroom can be difficult. The following section provides evaluation tips and suggestions to make sure you are choosing the most appropriate resources.

Evaluate

As OER can be created, used, and revised by anybody, instructors may have concerns regarding their quality and suitability. The process for evaluating OER is very similar to evaluating any other course material; the only difference is understanding each resource’s specific license. The OER Evaluation Checklist provides a walkthrough of considerations when evaluating OER, in particular, ensuring that the materials are of proper quality, appropriate for the class demographic, and are technologically compatible with the course aims. The Open Scholarship website also contains a rubric for evaluating OER that addresses relevance, accuracy, production quality, accessibility, interactivity, and licensing. As an additional evaluative tool, many OER repositories include reviews of particular resources from other users, often other instructors, which provide a succinct and critical overview for  helping instructors quickly evaluate a particular OER. If you are still having trouble finding the right OER for your course, or are interested in development, the Scholarly Communication department can help instructors create their own OER.

Create

Creating an OER for your course can take many forms, and there are several resources available to you. One option is using Pressbooks, an accessible tool that allows users to create, edit, and publish texts in a variety of formats. It is easy to involve students with Pressbooks, and they can even create OER as a final project for a course. The Pressbooks User Guide provides a walkthrough of the tool, and the Open Pedagogy Notebook provides examples and suggestions for creating OER with students. There are even funding opportunities for supporting OER creation and implementation, such as IUB’s Information Literacy Course Grant. For a more thorough discussion of a recent example, please see Scholarly Communication Librarian Sarah Hare’s previous blog post about a course that received an Information Literacy Grant to create an OER using Pressbooks.

Further Resources

Not every class is the same, and the steps discussed above are not always linear. The process often includes a combination of different steps. The Scholarly Communication department offers various resources and services to help you integrate OER into your classroom, no matter what your project looks like. A detailed list of these services, including FAQs, can be found under the Open Scholarship website’s new Open Education tab, and the IU OER LibGuide provides supplementary resources and information. While this blog post details the Scholarly Communication Department’s OER services, it does not exhaust all available options for finding, implementing, and/or creating affordable course materials at IU. If you have any further questions about OER and how you can incorporate them into your classroom, please email iusw@indiana.edu.