My research paper measures how graffiti expresses political agendas. I gathered photos of this graffiti and planned on using it as part of my published work. However, I am not sure how to determine who owns it, so I can cite it appropriately. Also, do I have to get permission, to use illustrations in my article?
Dear Loves Graffiti,
As to who owns the work, if you don’t know the creator, you may have an “orphan work,” or a work whose copyright owner is unknown. You may need to recognize that reality in your citations.
If you are analyzing the work, or using it for illustration--that is, in connection with an argument you are making in your analysis--you probably have a good case for employing fair use. In that case you would not need permission. To decide whether and how to employ fair use, you can refer to the ICA’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication. Look especially at Section One, “Analysis, Criticism, and Commentary of Copyrighted Material,” and at Section Two, “Quoting Copyrighted Material For Illustration.” Consider whether your use is limited appropriately, according to those two limitations...but not before reading the entire document, so that you understand the basic logic. Fair use is about reasoning, not rules, so you do need to know the reasons why you can use it.
Patricia Aufderheide for ICA
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