Papers & Presentations by Christine L. Sundt

Visual Resources Advocacy Statement

PART II: New Technologies and Images

by Christine L. Sundt


The process required for changing an analog image (e.g., a slide or an illustration) commonly used in the classroom into a digital one is relatively simple and straightforward, even with equipment made for private, at-home use: Take the slide or illustration, scan it, adjust its size, color, and framing, save it to a file, and display the file using a projection device onto a screen. The projected image is fundamentally the same regardless of its format: a representation of a scene or object with enough definition and clarity so that it can be discussed or critiqued or be the vehicle for eliciting commentary or be the object of a report. The content of the image has not changed with its transformation from an analog object into digital bits and bytes, even though in the latter, it probably has lower resolution and it may not be as luminous as its film or paper counterpart.

The need for images in the new classroom are the same as in the old. Digital images are still needed in the same quantity as slide images, and these are still the same images represented in text and trade books that constitute required reading for students. Unlike slides, there are fewer commercial vendors offering digital images, although it would appear that images available on the Internet through the World Wide Web (WWW) already exceed in size the typical visual resources collection (250,000 items). The proliferation of images on the Web and the desperate push by revenue-deficient academic institutions "to digitize" (the newer version of the verb "to automate") has opened up new areas for concern regarding the use of images within what we understand to be the legal limits of copyright and fair use.

The proposed fair use practices in the previous section of this report are easily translated into digital practices. Because none of the conditions for use have changed other than the transformation of the object's image from an analog format into a digital one, I suggest that if these practices are acceptable in the traditional format, they also be approved for the new technologies:

  • Making a DIGITAL image for classroom use from reproductions in copyrighted printed matter without permission, especially when suitable DIGITAL reproductions are not available through commercial vendors specializing in art or art historical images.

Figure 1. Mona Lisa, accessible at WWW site:

  • Using DIGITAL images in a course assignment, or in fulfillment of degree requirements, such as a term paper, thesis or a dissertation
  • Incorporating DIGITAL images in new creative works as a course assignment in an accredited academic institution
  • Reproducing DIGITAL images in derivative works for which there is no real commercial value or financial gain for either the creator of the original image or the maker of the derivative work
  • Using images of public domain artworks or architecture freely (without written permission) TO CREATE A DIGITAL IMAGE, even though the maker of the reproduction is identifiable
  • Using DIGITAL images as illustrations in a scholarly presentation or lecture to a specialized audience
  • Using a reasonable number of previously published (OR POSTED) DIGITAL images to expound an idea or argument in scholarly writings, such as articles or books, written for a small, specialized scholarly audience
  • Reproducing pre-1977 published images lacking copyright notices as well as any other means to identify a photographer or creator of the image AS DIGITAL IMAGES

The transition from analog to digital nevertheless is not easily traversed. Numerous question are being raised, some based on an earlier understanding (or misunderstanding) of technology, suggesting that fair use may not apply to the digital format. Some of the more challenging questions in recent discussions on various electronic listserves include: what is fixation and when does it occur; how many copies are made during transmission; and how should images be used and regulated in cyberspace? Other questions, more fundamental questions, also beg answers.

The views expressed in this paper are my own. I do not speak for the University of Oregon nor for any other organization with which may name may be associated.

This is the original version of the paper posted on July 1, 1996.
Last revision: October 23, 2002 by CLS
Created by Christine L. Sundt, University of Oregon Libraries
UO HomeCopyweb Home
University of Oregon Libraries | Architecture & Allied Arts Library | Visual Resources Collection | Eugene, OR 97403-5249 | 541/346-2209 v. -2205 f.