Brad Sietz

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

LOEX Conference Proceedings

Conference City

Grand Rapids


The legal & ethical implications of image use are a key and often overlooked part of visual literacy. Many students see it as their right to use images and artistic works as source material, regardless of the law. To these students copyright is outdated, as pirating and torrenting have consistently outpaced attempts to police them. Learning the bounds of copyright and the power of fair use will equip students with the skills they need to explore and challenge the limits of legal image use. However, what’s legal under fair use might not always be ethical, especially as it pertains to the appropriation of visuals from disempowered groups or individuals. There is a tendency to conflate the two issues, and students need to be able to separate them; understanding the various effects that image use has and the power structures implicated is a key skill for visual literacy. Experts understand that use has consequences, but students often do not consider the idea that their image use potentially has many ramifications both legally as well as beyond the law. It is vital to get students to engage in discussion about the relationship between the law, ethics, and their image use.