Visual Resources Center


VRC Digital Collection Copyright Policy

With the exception of some items that have passed into the public domain, materials in the Visual Resources Collection and associated digital collections are copyrighted. The following policy outlines how images are acquired, and how they may be used by students, faculty, and staff at Reed.


Acquisition of visual resources falls into several categories: purchase and license, donation, and scanning or copy stand photography.

Purchasing and licensing: When a commercially produced image of acceptable quality is available, we will purchase, license, or otherwise legally acquire, the following in developing permanent archives of images:

  1. Slides or digital files from museums, galleries or other such institutions

  2. Slides or digital files from vendors and image providers

  3. Original on-site photography produced for sale by professional or highly skilled photographers.

  4. Slides or digital files distributed on a free-use basis through recognized educational or professional institutions, organizations and consortia.

Gifts and donations: We are happy to add to the collection images taken by faculty, provided that the following criteria are met:

  1. Basic descriptive information (Title, Source, Location) is provided or can easily be researched

  2. Image size and quality meets collection standards

  3. institution discretionary rights over extended use, as well as physical custody, of the materials is granted in writing.

Copy stand photography and scanning: We will accept requests for copy stand photography of images in books or periodicals if no other source for the image is available at reasonable cost, or as a temporary measure to meet short-term curricular needs. Images created by copy stand photography and scanning from published materials for inclusion in the permanent archive are subject to the following considerations:

  1. Images of suitable quality are not readily available at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable time from any of the options listed above.

  2. Images will not be shared between or among other educational institutions if such use is prohibited by the terms of their acquisition.

  3. Images will be used for comment, criticism, review, analysis, discussion, or other similar purpose associated with instruction or scholarship.

  4. Images will be used only for purposes that are both nonprofit and educational.

  5. In keeping with copyright limitations, digital images produced for the collection will not be used for study or research as a replacement for a copyrighted work (e.g. book from the which the digital images were derived).

  6. If the above conditions can be met, it is likely that making images and digital files from published materials will be within "Fair Use" as outlined in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.

Uses outside the understood parameters described above, such as use on an unrestricted website or in print publications, including scholarly publications, are not covered in this document. Such uses to be considered fair must be judged independently and individually, using the four-factor analysis described in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. The four factors to be considered in determining if a use is a fair use are: (1) purpose and character of the use; (2) nature of the copyrighted work; (3) amount and substantiality of the material used; and (4) the effect on the market.


To the extent that such information is available, it is recommended that all images acquired for the permanent archive of an educational institution should be identified with the following:
  1. source of image
  2. year of acquisition
  3. in the case of a purchased or licensed image, the provider's inventory or identifying number or code.


While the traditional means of display for such image archives have been through projection, or otherwise viewing the physical surrogate (photograph, slide, video, film), the introduction of new technologies, specifically the digital environment of the Internet and the World Wide Web has expanded the display options. There is little in the way of legal precedent, code, or case law which addresses the issues particular to educational image archives. However, it seems reasonable to expect that digital materials should be available to the same user group that the analog collection serves, for the same purposes.

Analog materials acquired as outlined above may be used in digital format as follows:

  1. Images purchased or licensed are subject to the conditions specified at the time of purchase or according to license agreement.
  2. Gifts and donations are subject to restrictions made at the time of contribution. In addition, a gift of images purchased by the donor may be subject to the conditions of the original purchase.
  3. Images made by copy stand photography may be digitized and used digitally according to the same criteria under which they were originally acquired for analog use.


Under the law, liability may be held by both the institution and the individual; however, individual liability may depend on the institution's policies. Usually, although not always, individuals who adhere to institutional policies will be indemnified by their institutions against all the costs they may suffer if they are sued. Following institutional policy is a good way for individuals to stay within the protections of a good-faith fair use defense. It is recommended that the designated overseer discuss institutional policies with the institution's legal counsel.

  • Public Domain images (those in which neither the underlying work of art documented nor the photographic reproduction itself is subject to copyright) may be safely acquired by any appropriate means, including copy stand photography or scanning. Use of such images is unrestricted.
  • Reed College Visual Resources Collection and Reed College Digital Collections images are provided to support research, teaching and study and may be used for education purposes only. Reed College students, faculty, and staff may use images for in-class display, as well as academic presentations, papers, assignments, and senior theses.
  • Images must be properly attributed. Cite the source of the image as "Reed College Digital Collections" and when available also add the statement "Courtesy of [individual/organization listed as Copyright Holder]" or "Public domain image". Unless an image's Copyright Holder is "public domain," uses other than those described above - such as inclusion in a published or commercial work or a non-Reed-password-protected website - may require permission from the copyright holder.
  • Some uses outside of the parameters outlined in this document may be considered “Fair Use” as outlined in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. Such uses to be considered fair must be judged independently and individually, using the four-factor analysis described in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. The four factors to be considered in determining if a use is a fair use are:
    1. purpose and character of the use;

    2. nature of the copyrighted work;

    3. amount and substantiality of the material used; and

    4. the effect on the market.

Note: A majority of the text in this document is based on the VRA Image Collection Guidelines

Updated 8/1/2016