As a discipline, the history of art and architecture relies on access to visual material that is frequently in copyright. The VRC supports the responsible use of visual material through the adoption of policy and procedures intended to educate consumers of copyrighted material of their rights and obligations while simultaneously protecting the intellectual property rights of others.

Image Collections and Concern for Intellectual Property

The majority of images contained in the online collection represent objects not owned by the University of California and are the intellectual property of others. To facilitate understanding of the copyright status of the images online and to promote responsible use of our online content, the VRC has adopted a standardized suite of statements that accompany the display of each image.

Rights Statements are displayed alongside each image and communicate to the user what we know about the status of a given image. Creative Commons License information is displayed, where applicable, to communicate what we know about how a third-party has licensed a particular image. In order to make best use of this information, it is imperative that users understand that the information provided relates to the image rights associated with the digital surrogate of the object, and does not reflect information relevant to the copyright status of the object itself.

While it is not possible for the VRC to make any guarantee of copyright for materials within the collection, the inclusion of these statements is intended to guide the user in understanding their rights and responsibilities surrounding the use of digital objects in our collections.

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Source Information
The VRC makes an effort to establish accurate source information for images contained in its collections. The majority of images published in the VRC’s online collection display source information alongside other descriptive data.  The information is offered to users to promote visual literacy, encourage critical investigation, facilitate proper citation, and expedite inquiry of issues surrounding intellectual property.

Copyright Brown Bag Discussions

As part of the VRC’s commitment to visual literacy and copyright education, the VRC offers a series of brown bag discussions that address issues germane to the field of art historical scholarship and the use of copyrighted material.

The VRC’s Copyright Brown Bag Discussions are regularly scheduled on the first and second Wednesday of each month, from 12-1pm, in ARTS 329. Members of the department are invited to bring their lunch and any questions they may have regarding the use of images, whether in general or specific to their own research. The format is informal and the sessions are designed to provide an introduction to the core concepts surrounding intellectual property that impact our discipline.

It is important to note that these sessions are informational only; the VRC cannot offer legal advice. RSVP’s are appreciated but not required.


First Wednesday Discussion
Brief History of Copyright
Determining Length of Copyright Terms in the United States
How and When Works Pass into the Public Domain
Original Work vs. Surrogate Image
How Can I Use It?
What is Fair Use?
How to Make a Fair Use Determination
CAA’s Code of Best Practices
Bridgeman v. Corel

Second Wednesday Discussion
Creative Commons and Open Access Publishing
Understanding the Creative Commons Licenses
Non-Commercial Uses
Contractual Restrictions
Works for Hire
Considerations for Depositing your Thesis or Dissertation in ProQuest
Requesting Permission
Licensing Images for Publication