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Division of External Relations

Copyright and Fair Use for Images

All images that you plan to use are subject to copyright and intellectual property laws. Before you use an image on your website, you must find out if the images falls under the Fair Use guidelines. If the image does not, then you will need to either pay for the use of the image, find an image that is copyright-free, or pay for the use of said image. To avoid any legal troubles, please use UC Merced images at

Determining Fair Use

There are guidelines on when an image falls under the Fair Use Laws which protects individuals and organizations from copyright infringement. Using copyrighted photos for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research can mitigate any issues when using copyrighted images.

Below are the guidelines for Fair Use:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

(From FindLaw, “Fair Use Law”. See more at

Things to Think About Before Using Images

Before using a copyrighted image for any purpose, consider the following:

  1. Why are you using the image? Is it for criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and/or research? If you then most likely you are able to use the image on your website. If you plan on using to promote something or for any other commercial reasons, you will need to get permission and/or pay to use the image(s).
  2. Do you understand Fair Use Law? Please read through the requirements and article provided to get an understanding of the Fair Use Law. If you are unsure about the image or your understanding of the law, play it safe and don’t use the image. When in doubt, USE UC MERCED IMAGES!
  3. If you aren't sure, make your own images or use UCM images. Take a photo, create your own collateral, or have a graphic designer create something for you. Avoid using any image if you do note have permission to use said image. We cannot stress this enough, if you are unsure USE UC MERCED IMAGES!
  4. Attribution is not the same as fair use. Citing an image has nothing to do with fair use and will not help you in litigation. All citation does is protect you from plagerism. Please refer to the guidelines above to determine if you can use the image under the Fair Use Law. To provide attribution and avoid plagiarism, see information on Creative Commons page on best practices for attribution.

If you have an image you want to use that is not from UC Merced, please do your due dilegence and make sure that the image is not copyrighted or you have permission from the original creator. One way to check the image is to use Google’s reverse image search at or TinyEye at

If you cannot find an image from, there are other options that are available, but you would need to pay for the use of said image. Below are a few resources to use:

  1. iStock (by Getty Images)
  2. Shutterstock
  3. Getty Images Royalty-Free

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email and we will be more than happy to help you.