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  • Writer's pictureBethann Garramon Merkle

There are ethical (and legal) ways to use images and work with artists for science communication, and you should know what they are.


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.)

A number of years ago, I developed a detailed series of blog posts about the ethical and legal nuances of sourcing images off the internet for any kind of science communication. Among other things, the series discussed U.S. copyright laws and included resources and recommendations for accessing images for free as well as commissioning custom images from an illustrator. (In that series, I did not get into the ethical and legal dimensions of AI-produced images; that quandary wasn't on the radar at the time.)


More recently, I synthesized a lot of that advice into a digestible article: Writing Science: Best Practices for the Images that Accompany Your Writing. That article focuses on the ethical and legal aspects of using other people's images.


I'm sharing these resources with you this week as a way of letting you know that there's a new event on my trainings calendar that addresses the topic of ethical image use in science communication, and you're welcome to join for free! My talk is part of the University of Arizona's Water Whys Visual SciComm Seminar.


If you want the cliff notes of all the advice in that series and article, register for my talk on February 23. You can learn more and register for that event here.


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