Help:Image licensing


How to choose an appropriate license for your image

Disclaimer: This quick summary of image copyright and licensing is not written by lawyers. It is meant only to help the uploader choose a proper license.

In order to post an image on WeRelate or any other public website, one of the following must be true:

  1. the image is not under copyright,
  2. you have permission from the copyright holder, or
  3. your posting of the image constitutes "fair use".

The image is not under copyright if one of the following is true

See this article on copyright for more information.

  • The image is an original work of the US Federal Government.
  • The image was published in the US before 1923. An image is considered published when the author makes it available to the public on an unrestricted basis. For example, sharing a picture with family members does not constitute publication; putting it in the newspaper does.
  • The image was published in the US between 1923 and 1977 without a copyright notice.
  • The image was published in the US between 1923 and 1963 with a copyright notice but the copyright was not renewed.
  • The image is a faithful reproduction of an old painting that is out of copyright due to its age.
  • The image was never published and the author died more than 70 years ago.
  • The image was created more than 120 years ago, was never published, and the death date of the author is unknown or the work was made for hire (corporate authorship).
  • The copyright owner has released the image into the public domain.

If you know the copyright owner (or if you are the copyright owner)

You can ask the copyright owner to grant a "license" so that you and others can use the image. We recommend the dual-license option, but any of the following licenses can be granted for images appearing on WeRelate:

  • While all of the *text* at WeRelate is by-sa, images can use a variety of licenses. "by-sa-nc" as an option in the license list, or you can select "Other" and put the following link in the text:
  • Dual-license with GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and Creative Commons Attribution Required Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA). In a nutshell, either of these licenses allow others to use the images for commercial or non-commercial use so long as proper attribution is given to the copyright holder and any derivative works created from the images (e.g., a collage) are made available under the same license.
  • GFDL only.
  • CC-BY-SA only.
  • Creative Commons Attribution Required (CC-BY).
  • Attribution required (no other restrictions).
  • allows people to use images for their own personal, noncommercial use. Their Record Search conditions of use states in part: "You may view, download, and print material from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use..."
  • also allows people to use images for their own personal, noncommercial use. Their terms of use state in part that you "will use the Website for personal historical research only and not for any commercial purpose, ... you agree to limit your reuse and republication of such public domain images to small portions of the Footnote collection, and ... you agree to credit as the source of the digital image, unless additional specific restrictions apply."

If the image is still under copyright and you are unable to ask the copyright owner for a license

then if you publish the image it must be under "fair use" conditions. Most family photos where the photo taker died less than 70 year ago fall into this case. Fair use allows copyrighted works to be used in certain situations. The factors that determine whether a use is "fair" are:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

See this article on fair use for more detail. Image postings that qualify as fair use on WeRelate might not qualify on other websites (e.g., possibly not commercial websites). WeRelate has defined two categories for "fair use". It is believed that images falling into one of these two categories contitute a "fair" use of a copyrighted image at WeRelate.

  • A small snippet of a unique historical photograph or document.
  • A lower-resolution copy of a unique historical photograph or document.

See the image tutorial for instructions on cropping and reducing image resolution.


  • A photo you took: ok to upload.
  • A photo that one of your relatives took: If they published the image before 1923 or if they died more than 70 years ago, it's ok to upload. If they're still living, ask them for permission. If they died less than 70 years ago, ask their heir if you can find one. Otherwise you may be able to upload a significantly-reduced-resolution image under fair use low-resolution copy of a historical photo.
  • A scanned document image found on Fold3: Use the Fold3 limited-use license.
  • A scanned document image found on another website such as FamilySearch or Ancestry: You may be able to upload a significantly-reduced-resolution image under a fair use low-resolution copy of a historical document.
  • A photo found on a website such as FindAGrave: Ask the author if you can upload. Otherwise, link to the webpage on which you found the photo.

Copyright infringement

If it is brought to our attention that an uploaded image violates someone's copyright, it will be removed in accordance with the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act.