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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

Finding the Creator…and Asking for Permission (Using Images-A Primer, part 3)

Updated: Jan 26

This article is the third 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.


How to access Google's reverse image search (see photo), plus their help info re using it:…. CommNatural/BGMerkle (@commnatural) August 04, 2016


In the first article in this series, we looked at essential definitions at play when using images and a lot of image use tips. In the second article, we looked at public domain, creative commons, and other free image sources.

In this article, we’ll focus on tips for finding the creator of an image you want to use and asking for permission to reproduce it.

1. You may not initially know who created the image

Perhaps the most important tip to keep in mind for this article comes from Stephen B. Heard (blogs at Scientist Sees Squirrel): “An image may be widely reproduced so you can’t tell what’s the original use; or the creator may have a defunct email address, or have a cryptic username with no contact info.  I frequently fail to find the creator.  In that case, it’s simple – can’t find the creator, so can’t ask; so move on to a different image!”

2. In the internet age, there’s really no excuse not to ask for permission

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