Instructions for students: Copyright

Respecting Copyright

At Ryerson, all images require attribution. They are licensed under various levels of Creative Commons licensing unless otherwise stated. If licensing is not listed on an image, you should contact the source directly.

Attributing words and ideas, whether published or in the public domain, to their creator(s) is an important part of maintaining academic integrity. You should follow the conventions detailed in the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook to produce and format your list of works cited, and follow their guides for in-text parenthetical citations.

The same principles involved in citing words and ideas applies to images.

Generally, image attributions should meet the same requirements as a text citation; that is, a reader should be able to find the source of the image, and the image itself, based on the information in the citation.

You will attribute your images to their creator in two places in your assignment. One is as a caption, below the image itself. The second is in a works cited list. You will use different formatting for each one.


  1. Best practices for crediting images:
  • Always use open source or public domain images, or get permission in writing from the creator/owner/subjects to publish the image
  • Always be explicit about who owns that image, and attribute as clearly as you can.
  • Questions to ask as you collect and prepare to document your images:
  • Author – Who owns the material? Name the author or authors of the material in question. Sometimes, the licensor may want you to give credit to some other entity, like a company or pseudonym. In rare cases, the licensor may not want to be attributed at all. In all of these cases, just do what they request.
  • Title – What is the name of the material? If a title was provided for the material, include it. Sometimes a title is not provided; in that case, don’t worry about it.
  • Medium (of the original image, not your duplication of it) – Poster, photograph, still, webpage, etc.?
  • Source – Where can I find it? If your image comes from a book or journal, indicate volume, issue, publisher, page numbers as relevant. If it comes from a museum or library site or from a photo service, indicate that. You might want to include the URL or a hyperlink to where the material resides.
  • License – Who owns the copyright? What permissions does it give for use? Many of the sources you find will be explicit about their license and how they wish the work to be referenced. Examples:
    • ©Public Domain
    • ©Creative Commons License CC BY (If your item as a creative commons license, remember that there are six different CC licenses; which one is the material under? Name and provide a link to it.
    • At the end of your online publication, include the following copyright statement: “Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.”
    • Remember: “fair dealing” means you should restrict the number of images to ONE from a single source, unless you are the producer of that image.
    • If you use more than one image from a single source, be sure you analyze the images so that they are clearly part of your argument and evidence.
    • Try this tool to assess whether you are doing fair dealing:
    • Fair use is also more persuasively demonstrated when the images are low resolution, and clearly illustrative as opposed to available for reproduction. Watermarks and thumbnails can also effectively show that you are not trying to profit from the reproduction of an image, or take away the profits from the producer of that image. Remember too that our exhibit site cannot handle high resolution photos.
  1. Formatting – Citation vs. Caption

Citation: Appears in-text in parentheses, which refer the reader to the Works Cited page. The goal of a citation is to let the reader locate that work on their own. Because online sources can change, in a citation, you indicate the date you saw something.

Caption: text accompanying an image inserted into your paper, right below it. The goal of a caption is to describe the object, including its medium and dimensions if relevant, and provide information on copyright as well as where it was sourced. Anything you caption should also be in your works cited list, where it will be formatted differently.


Name of artist (first name, last name), Title of Work of Art, Date of work. Medium. (Size if relevant). Owner of the original/rights to reproduce image + link to source [current date]



Object Citation Caption
Artifact Citation: Unknown (Chinese). Vase with Fluted Mouth

and Molded Floral Design. Early 1200s. Indianapolis

Museum of Art, Web. 27 Jan 2018.

Caption: Unknown. Chinese vase with fluted mouth, early 1200s. Stoneware with Green Glaze, Quanzhou ware. Image © Indianapolis Museum of Art. Object 10313597311.


Painting Citation:

Sargent, John Singer. Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau). 1883-84. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In ARTstor. [cited 20 June 2013].



Fig. 5. John Singer Sargent, Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883-84. Oil on canvas.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ARTstor : MMA_IAP_1039651030


Photograph you took Citation: Tschofen, Monique. Untitled photograph (Andy Warhol, Mao). 15 Aug, 2016. Private collection. Monique Tschofen. Untitled Photograph featuring Mao by Andy Warhol (1973). Hamburg Banhoff Museum, Berlin. August 15, 2016. ©Monique Tschofen


Video you made Tschofen, Monique. Director. “Train Ride.” 2016. Cell phone video (13 mins). With voice over commentary by My Fav Student. Monique Tschofen. Still from “Train Ride.” Cell phone video (13 mins). 15 Aug. 2016. ©M. Tschofen. Reproduced with the permission.



  1. For more information:


Best Practices for Attribution.” Creative Commons Wiki. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Cornell U, Images: A Guide to Resources – Copyright.

See also: MLA Citation Style 8th Edition: Physical object (artworks or artifacts)