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The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Image Use

This guide will help you determine how to use images in both academia and publishing.

Permissions Letters

If you don't feel that the Copyright Clearance Center is appropriate for your particular scenario, your next option would be to obtain permission in order to use the image from the publisher, creator, etc. 

First, go to the spreadsheet created that includes citation details, originally discussed in Image-Permissions-Organization. Add that the Copyright Clearance Center has been checked. As you begin to write permissions letters, add more columns next to the citation columns so that the permissions process can be tracked. For each letter, include to whom it was sent. Be Patient, it may take time to receive a response

When creating a permissions letter, include a set amount of information: 

  • Provide information about yourself
  • The image source (where you found the image)
  • Include the creator, author, or publisher of the image
  • Describe the image you want to produce (this is good for identification purposes)
  • Then, of course, describe your purposes:
    • How much of the image will you use
    • Whether this will be for commercial or non-commercial use
    • Whether you wish to make modifications
    • include an expected publication date or post date
    • whether or not this would be available globally--important because copyright laws differ from one country to the next

-Lesley Ellen Harris, How to Obtain Permission,

Next Steps

The next step is to wait for the response from the copyright holder. If you find that the response is negative, you will need to find an alternative resource. 

If you receive a positive response from the copyright holder, you will most likely need to negotiate some sort of agreement. A license agreement with the author could include paying him or her for use of their work. Once the Terms of Use have been agreed upon, make sure to save everything in writing and ensure easy retrieval if necessary. 


The purpose of this guide is to provide resource and information for resolving image use questions. This research guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.