This article is about legally using images in presentation slides and establishing best practices to stay legal. Whenever you use images in presentation slides, you should consider the copyright implications. Establishing best practices for legally using images in presentation slides helps minimize your risks of copyright infringement.
Are You Legally Using Images in Presentation Slides?
How much attention are you paying to copyright law when you create slides for a presentation? We usually focus on the non-legal parts of the presentation such as its content and including images to enhance our speaking points. Copyright law considerations should be an equal component when preparing slides for a presentation.
As with most copyright issues, the matter of legally using images in presentation slides is nuanced, and the answer to many questions is often “it depends” or “maybe” or “let’s examine your particular circumstances.” Understanding copyright issues will help you legally use images in your presentation slides. These images may include photographs, graphics, and illustrations.
First Ask Yourself: Are the Images Protected by Copyright?
When you find an image online or elsewhere, assume that it is protected by copyright. Once you identify the image you want to use, start thinking about its copyright status and whether you need permission to use it.
If you determine that copyright in a work has expired and the work is in the public domain then you can use the work without obtaining permission. In the U.S., a public domain work is one in which the work’s author died more than 70 years ago.
However, if the work has been manipulated or adapted and would constitute a new work, that new work may have a new and longer copyright duration and may be protected by copyright, even though the underlying work is in the public domain.
Are Facts and News Copyright Protected?
You may state facts and news and describe historical events as long as you don’t reproduce them exactly as you found them in the source. You can also summarize facts, historical information and the like without obtaining permission.
This basic principle of copyright law works for text but is more difficult to apply to the use of images. You could, however, use data or summarize it rather than reproduce, adapt or share the source table or chart without permission.
You may also like our article Sharing and Republishing Content.
Avoiding Copyright Concerns when Legally Using Images in Presentation Slides
There are a number of ways to legally use images in presentation slides while complying with copyright law without directly clearing copyright permissions from the copyright owner of the image.
- Create Your Own — Can you use a chart displaying the data you need that a fellow employee created? If created by an employer during work duties, then the employer owns the copyright in it. You could take your own photograph of the tourist attraction you want to feature in your presentation and use that image in your slides. If you do take your own photo and taking this photo is part of your employment duties, then your company likely owns the copyright in it.
- Use a Stock Photo Agency — Your organization may have an account with a stock photo agency where you can find images that suit your purpose. These images can only legally be used with the parameters of the agency’s license. You must follow the terms and conditions of the agency agreement to legally use licensed images in your presentation. For example, read the iStock Content License Agreement to become familiar with stock photo agency licenses.
- Apply a Creative Commons (CC) License — by applying a work covered by a CC license, you can only use the image in the manners set out in the license terms and conditions. CC licenses have restrictions on how you can use content and you must follow those restrictions.
Do Not Rely on Prior Copyright Permissions
Have you previously used that image? If you have, where did you use it and for how long? What sort of permission have you already obtained? Will this prior permission allow you to use the image in your presentation?
If you have permission to include a photograph in a management training session at your company’s headquarters in Baltimore doesn’t mean you can use that photo in a public presentation being made across North America. Know the terms of licenses and assignments (i.e., permissions). If they don’t apply to the current situation, either seek additional permission or use an alternative.
Use the Images As Is
Even if you have permission from the copyright owner, you may need specific permission to re-color images or change black and white images to color, crop them, or otherwise manipulate them. Standard stock photo agency licenses, for example, may not allow these additional uses without further permission.
Does Fair Use or Fair Dealing Apply to Using Images in Presentation Slides?
Fair use or fair dealing may apply to your use of content. These provisions may permit you to reproduce a work without permission in some situations. You’ll have to apply the fair use or fair dealing conditions to your particular situation to determine if it falls within these statutory provisions.
Fair use and fair dealing are not without risk. The only way to know for certain if your fair use or dealing assessment is correct is in a court of law. It is wise to know your organization’s risk tolerance for an inaccurate fair use or fair dealing determination. It is advisable to consult internal policy, a copyright specialist, and/or your legal counsel on these matters.
Familiarize Yourself with Copyright Law
Everyone needs to be familiar with the basics of copyright. Whether you’re designing presentations, writing the company newsletter, or photocopying materials, copyright should be a part of your workflow.
Want more helpful information like this? The Legally Using Images eTutorial teaches you how to avoid expensive and time consuming legal hassles and how to determine which images require copyright permission and which you can safely use for free.
You may also like Best Practices to Lower Copyright Risks.