Say there is an image or diagram I want to use from a website. I request permission to use said image. They never respond. Can I use that image in a book I'm writing?

Or do I even need permission if there is no copyright information on the website nor on the image itself? Can I just list the image's website in the appendix of my book?


Also, I have searched on free use image websites like Unsplash. They usually have photographs, not diagrams or functional drawings of the material in my book. So I am specifically wondering about getting images from random .com websites.


1 Answer 1


Copyright protection exists for any work (picture, paragraph, song etc), and persists for many years until it expires. Unless the work was created a long time ago, or was created by the US government (not the same as "funded by government money"), you should assume that the work is protected. That means that you must have permission to copy it. Sometimes, a work has associated with it some such permission, in the form of a "license". Without such a license, you have to request the copyright owner for permission to copy – whether or not they say that the work is protected by copyright (because by law it is protected, so they don't have to say that it is).

If you request permission to copy, and do not receive the required permission, then you cannot legally copy the work. The copyright holder has no obligation to explicitly deny permission. You can certainly list the URL for an image, you just cannot copy the image in your book.

  • But sometimes you can use an image without requesting permission
    – phoog
    Dec 12, 2022 at 2:47
  • @phoog If you have a legal right to do something, and you were planning to do that thing anyway, then it wouldn't make much sense to ask permission first. For example, if you have a legal right to smoke in a certain public place, then you shouldn't ask someone nearby "do you mind if I smoke here" unless you actually intend to respect her answer yes/no. Even if you have no legal obligation to follow her "no, I'd rather you not smoke here" response, for example.
    – Brandin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 8:24
  • @Brandin that's true, but people may also ask permission because they are unaware that permission is unnecessary. This is more likely in the field of copyright, which is often misunderstood, than in the smoking example.
    – phoog
    Dec 12, 2022 at 9:00
  • So all images that are not creative commons are copyrighted by default?
    – adamaero
    Dec 12, 2022 at 13:35

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