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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Top Image Sources: Finding great scicomm & presentation images for free (Using Images-A Primer, part 2)

Updated: Jan 26

This article is the second in a series aimed at helping you enhance your scicomm and sciart by avoiding visual plagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.


NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 


Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.


Two-panel image. Left image is a black and white photo of a glamours woman. Right image is a hand-drawn, complex diagram.
The internet is full of great images you can ethically and legally use for free, like these ofHedy Lamarr (co-developer of frequency hopping, the forerunner of the internet) and one of her patent figures. (Source: public domain images from Wikimedia Commons & Google Patents.)


 

FINDING GREAT FREE SCICOMM IMAGES

In the first article in this series, we looked at essential definitions at play when using images. We also ran through a series of tips, including how to approach someone about asking permission to reproduce their image, the constraints of U.S. Fair Use laws, and more.


In this article, we’ll focus on how to find great images to use in your SciComm, whether that is a conference talk or poster, a lecture in the class you teach, an outreach project, or something else.


There are several ways to access free high-quality images. The following are recommended:


A: PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES

“The public domain is not a place,” notes the U.S. Copyright Office in its list of definitions.


Rather, “A work of authorship is in the ‘public domain’ if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”

Public Domain images are the only “free” images on the internet, and even this recommendation is accompanied by the caveat that public domain laws vary by country.


Be sure to follow the laws of the country where you are (both where you work and where you may do a presentation or something else using images).


Sources of public domain images in the U.S. include:


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