Grateful for Fair Use: Combining Text and Images

This week, we’ll look at fair use cases and learn about their effect on and meaning for the work that we do. Read more posts in our series about Fair Use Week 2018.

Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley is a 2006 case about the transformative fair use of Grateful Dead concert posters. Publisher Dorling Kindersley used thumbnail images of seven posters to illustrate a timeline about the band’s history. Although many university faculty members and students are initially startled when I talk about Grateful Dead posters, I have found that this case is useful in discussing a variety of situations in which researchers combine text and images. Continue reading “Grateful for Fair Use: Combining Text and Images”

Google Reverse Image Search and Copyright

Sometimes, we have a picture that someone has given to us or we have found online and we would like to give credit to the picture or figure out whether the photo is in the public domain or if we cannot use that photo if we can find something close that we can use. Thankfully, Google has given us a new tool that we can use to have a place to start the search. Google has created a reverse image search option. There are several ways that you can use the Google Search image. Google has given their instructions here.

You start by going to There is a camera button to the left of the search button (or the magnifying glass).

Google Image Search 1 (1)


There is an option to paste the image URL, if you found the photo online or to upload the photo to google from your computer.

Google Image Search 2

If you are searching by URL, you need to search by the URL of where the photo is located, not the specific website where the photo exists.

Google Image Search 3

You can find that web address by right clicking on the photograph and then selecting “Copy Link Address.”

Google Image Search 4

From there, Google will search the indexed web to see if it can locate a copy of the photo. If it can, Google will give you its best guess of its name, websites that include the image, and visually similar images. While not perfect and not all photographs can be found this way, it does provide some help.

Google Image Search 5

The other thing that you can do is download a plugin for Firefox and Chrome available here. By downloading it, you can right-click on any image on the web and select “Search for the image on the web” which will do the same search as using the URL or uploading the image into the search engine without having to go there. This feature is similar to the proposed Plus Registry developed by the Copyright Office. We might be looking at having to do this anyway, but for now, it’s simply good practice.

Chance and the Macaque

Point/Counterpoint:  an occasional feature where Anne and Brett offer two different takes on an intellectual property issue or idea. 

Monkey Selfie


Comments on the macaque that took pictures have been everywhere.  They include:

Animals have no personhood and can’t own copyrights.

  • It was a picture taken by chance, and so the photographer can’t own the copyright.
  • The photographer says that the macaque acted as his assistant.
  • Does Indonesian law govern?  Does the copyright law of the photographer’s home country govern?
  • The Copyright Office postulates that animals can’t own copyrights.  Neither can spirit guides or deities.  Good to know.

The New Yorker has a good analysis.

But the whole story has brought up a couple of related thoughts for me.  The first is about chance in art, the capturing of chance and randomness in art, and the ability to copyright what results.  Most think—and I do too—that it’s about intent.  Silence is merely silence that isn’t and can’t be copyrighted until John Cage comes along. In those situations, it’s useful to think about what William Patry calls the continuum of idea/expression rather than the idea/expression dichotomy

I am aware of the role of chance in my own work, and that of many other artists.  The paint makes contact with the wet watercolor in a way that I can predict but that is not completely under my control.  I work with the result and create with intentionality, but some part of the resulting painting came about by chance.  That role of chance is often less easy to point to in written works, but there are some writers and poets who work with words generated randomly.  Perhaps the copyright is thinnest as intentionality lessens.  At the same time, part of creation is seizing and recognizing felicitous, unintended results.   It is a conundrum where lack of intentionality becomes intentionality.

I also began thinking about two articles I had read recently in the New York Times.  One was about animal law, and the efforts of the Nonhuman Rights Project to convince courts to extend legal rights to primates.   The other was on ideas about the thoughts and emotions of animals.  Will we someday grant legal rights to animals?  Could an animal understand the incentive of copyright and use it to create?  It seems unlikely now, but I do wonder if it will be possible in the future.