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Obtaining Copyright Permissions

Explains how to find copyright holders and get permission to use different copyrighted works.

Copyright Questions?

The University of Michigan Library Copyright Office provides help with copyright questions for University of Michigan faculty, staff and students. Please email us with questions or visit our website for more information.

Legal Advice

The information presented here is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

If you require legal advice in your personal capacity, the lawyer referral services operated by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan may be helpful to you.

When to Seek Permission

Remember that you do not need permission if you are using something that is not copyrightable or is in the public domain. You also don't need permission if you are using it in a way that does not implicate one of the rights of copyright holders or is permitted by a user’s right, such as fair use. For more information on these topics, please consult Copyright Basics.

Reverse Image Searches

Because images are so often published without attribution, it can be especially difficult to locate their copyright holders. If you have an image you would like to license but need to identify and contact the copyright holder, a reverse image search engine may be helpful. You can use a reverse image search engine to find out where an image came from, where it is being used, and whether higher resolution or modified versions of the image exist.

Sources of Publicly-Licensed Images

The sites below offer images that are licensed for reuse or are in the public domain. The Images research guide provides a more comprehensive list of such sites.

Art Museums With Open Access Policies

Image Collections Licensed by the University of Michigan Library

Collective Management Organizations for Stock Images

Some of these images are "free" -- for others there is a fee. "Royalty-free" means that you don't have to pay royalty fees for use, but you may still have to pay a fee for the image.  Visit these sites with caution as the pop-up ads can be invasive and read the fine print before you use any image.

For a recent overview of over 100 stock photo and license free image sites, with an emphasis on Creative Commons and Public Domain images, see this article by Jason Acidre: 100+ Free Presentation Tools: Stock Images, Fonts, Cliparts, & Infographic Sites.

Collective Management Organizations for Fine Art

Collective Management Organizations for Comics & Cartoons

Books About Licensing Images