The Rights Stuff: Ethical Decision-Making and Image Use in a Commercial Context

  • Maureen Burns IMAGinED Consulting
Keywords: Archivision, commercial partners, vendors, high quality images, extensive descriptive metadata, copyright, licensing images, competitive marketplace, digital library development


This article discusses ethical decision-making and image use in a commercial context. The author takes a historical perspective to better understand how the image provider world transitioned from analog to digital and has subsequently changed. Archivision, a commercial business that licenses a research library of 114,000 images of world architecture, urban design, gardens, landscapes, archaeological sites, and art in museums and public places is used as a case study to explore rights issues and better understand the vendor perspective. The author suggests that due to the decrease in image vendors over the last several years, it is worth considering licensing commercial content in order to meet the fourth fair use factor, that focuses on the effect of the use upon the potential market, to insure a vibrant and competitive marketplace for high quality images. Burns concludes that commercial and non-profit partners as well as visual resources curators can work together to insure that rich image resources continue to grow and remain accessible to the people who need them for research, teaching, and learning. Ethical decision-making and practices surrounding image use can insure that we all stay in business and contribute to the development of digital libraries for current and future learners.

Author Biography

Maureen Burns, IMAGinED Consulting

Maureen Burns is a information professional with over 30 years of experience curating and managing teaching collections of analog and digital images at UC Irvine, the Getty Villa, and CSULB. Presently working on a consulting basis, through IMAGinED, Burns handles sales for Archivision, consults on the CSU Japanese American Digitization project, and coordinates a UC Irvine NSF arts integration professional development program for K-12 teachers. With a doctorate in Educational Administration from the UCI/UCLA joint Leadership program, Burns is also the production editor for the electronic Journal for Learning through the Arts. Currently, she is serving on the VRA’s Development and Financial Advisory Committees, is the Affiliate Representative to the College Art Association, active in the International and Southern California VRA Chapters as well as being a past VRA president and past director of the VRA Foundation.

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