While copyright law protects the rights of creators and users of works, the doctrine of Fair Use provides us with the ability to share and advance information, ideas, and images with fewer restrictions. Some common practices for acting in good faith under copyright and Fair Use when using images include:

  1. Notifying students that the images in the course are copyrighted and only available for educational purposes (vraweb.org, 2015).
  2. Employing limited access restrictions so that, for example, images are only accessible to students while enrolled in a course (vraweb.org, 2015).
  3. Maintaining an educational, not-for-profit context. If images are shared between institutions (e.g. through Canvas Commons), ensure that the institutions also act in good faith (vraweb.org, 2015).
  4. Providing attribution to copyright owners of images, and/or citation (vraweb.org, 2015).

How to Prepare Images for the Web

Steps should always be taken to optimize web images. The OTL recommends the following:

  • Use descriptive names for image files to streamline future upkeep and editing.
    For example: “LotusFlower” instead of “Image1”
  • ALT tags are used to provide a text-based alternative for visual, or non-text, content (webaim.org, 2015). Always include appropriate ALT tags to clarify the meaning or purpose of the image. For example: “Image of a Lotus flower in the early morning sun” instead of “Flower”
  • Image sizes should not exceed 70kb as larger files slow down browsers. Free, user-friendly, online tools like PicMonkey can be helpful for re-sizing images while retaining quality.
  • According to DU’s photography & videography policy, any pictures taken of students, faculty, staff or members of the public and used for editorial (non-commercial and non-marketing) purposes do not require a release.

Which Sources Require Attribution

Images that are available through a purchased license or subscription (e.g. Microsoft Clipart, subscribed image databases, etc.) do not require attribution. In all other cases, attribution through citations and/or references should always be provided as a demonstration of good faith toward Fair Use, regardless of whether the image is open source or copyrighted.

How to Cite Images in Canvas

General Images

For any images embedded into the online Canvas LMS, include a full caption providing attribution located just below the image. Captions should include all known information (title, author, location, copyright licensure, etc.).

Creative Commons Images

Creative Commons (CC) materials are offered under a variety of license types ranging widely in permissions. Follow the instructions for providing attribution specific to the license type as detailed in the Best Practices for Attribution on the Creative Commons website. Add a caption below the image including; title, hyperlinks to the original URL, author information, and license type. Modified images must be identified as a derivative of the original work. Follow this resource on Attributing Creative Commons Materials from the Creative Commons website.

Other Images

Similarly, images from other sources should always be checked for copyright guidelines. Be sure to follow all source-specific instructions for providing proper credit when available.

How to Cite Images in the Classroom

General Images

When using images in course presentations and/or materials, an appropriately formatted reference should be provided in addition to the image caption. Use a citation style that is in line with course expectations (e.g. MLA, APA, or Chicago Style). The DU Images LibGuide offers several useful links for specific citation styles (Keeran, P., 2015).

Creative Commons Images

Images from Creative Commons should always include a caption that is in line with the license type and the instructions provided on the Creative Commons Detailed Attribution Comparison Chart. For images used in a classroom setting on a presentation, assignment, etc. it is also good practice to include a reference.

Other Images

Images from other sources should always be checked for copyright and compliance guidelines. Follow source specific instructions for providing proper credit whenever available. Images used in a classroom setting should also include a reference list.


creativecommons.org (2015). Best Practices for Attribution. Retrieved from https://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users

creativecommons.org (2015). Attributing Creative Commons Materials. Retrieved from http://creativecommons.org.au/content/attributingccmaterials.pdf

creativecommons.org (2015). Detailed Attributions Comparison Chart. Retrieved from https://wiki.creativecommons.org/License_Versions#Detailed_attribution_comparison_chart

Keeran, P., (2015). University LibGuides – Images. Retrieved from http://libguides.du.edu/c.php?g=90345&p=583631

vraweb.org, (2015). Visual Resources Association: Statement on the fair use of images for teaching, research, and study. Retrieved from http://www.cmsimpact.org/sites/default/files/documents/pages/vra_fairuse_statement.pdf

webaim.org, (2015). Alternative Text. Retrieved from http://webaim.org/techniques/alttext/

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