As a student, you should be well-versed in the importance of citing your sources and avoiding plagiarism. These considerations don’t go away when you leave academia. Any time you write a report or give/prepare a presentation, it is crucial that the information and images contained in the report or presentation are your own, and that the images are allowed to be used or reproduced in such a way.
When presenting information, producing a report, or completing any other research activity that requires a deliverable, it’s important to be aware of the copyright issues surrounding the resources you used. While it is tempting to simply say that anything you do falls under the blanket term of “fair use”, that is not always true, and it is your responsibility to understand when it does or does not apply.
“Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.” - Copyright.gov - “More Information On Fair Use”
The Creative Commons is exactly what it sounds like - an organization that exists solely to provide people with the skills, knowledge, and tools with which to search for free and usable information or images, and the knowledge and tools people need to make their own creative endeavors open and freely available to others. The Creative Commons is a dynamic, informative organization and their website contains a true plethora of highly-necessary information.
Open Access refers to the idea of resources that are available free online, and are allowed to be used by others without restrictions or barriers.
Halfway through an important presentation is never when you want to be publicly called out on your use of an image that was not allowed to be reproduced or used in the first place. You can easily avoid this by using the search engines below and making sure that you are looking for images that have been specifically marked as allowing sharing or reuse.
The mother of them all, Google Images casts a wide & broad net for you to look for any and all images you might be looking for. The link above takes you to the Advanced Search Screen, at the bottom of which you will see a section where you can designate the usage rights/levels you wish to search within.
Flickr pulls from the uploads of its users, which number in the millions. Once you have done a basic search, you can narrow your search results by means of a convenient drop-down list and view only the license type that you are searching for.
You can not only search Flickr for Creative Commons images, you can also search the Creative Commons folks directly!
If you have a new and original work, sometimes a Creative Commons license is not enough to protect your invention - you need to patent it. There is a United States Patent Office that exists only to help people with this process. It is multi-step, but not impossible to navigate on your own.
Fair Use and Copyright doesn’t just apply to you using someone else’s images or quotes ethically when writing a report or giving a presentation - it also applies to other people using your work in an ethical way, with your permission. The Creative Commons organization provides multiple licenses that allow others a little bit of usage, a medium amount of usage, or full use of your creative and intellectual output. Explore the variety of licenses that are out there for you to choose from, and mix/pick the selection that best suits you and each specific work!