Using the Photos in CalPhotos   

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Frequently Asked Questions

about CalPhotos

All CalPhotos




  • Whose photos are they?
  • Using the thumbnails
  • Using the larger images
  • Using the data
  • What is "Fair Use"?
  • Downloading multiple images or data
  • Linking to the images
  • Citing CalPhotos

  • Whose photos are they?

    A variety of organizations and individuals have contributed photographs to CalPhotos. Please be aware that these various contributors maintain copyright and also dictate usage of their own images. Usage information is provided with each image and can be found on each photo's "detail" page. (See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo? for more information.)

    On this page we provide general usage guidelines for all the CalPhotos images.

    Using the thumbnails

    The thumbnail photos are the small photos that appear in the "browse" pages when you do a search, and at the top of each photo's "detail" page. For our purposes, a thumbnail is an image that is 194x130 pixels in size or smaller. Thumbnails can be used without prior permission under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Law of the United States as long as you include the proper credit for the photo (check the photo's detail page for wording). Please see below for an explanation of what constitutes Fair Use. Briefly, it applies to personal, academic, and other educational uses. If your use is not within the provisions of Fair Use, you may still be able to use the thumbnails, but you may need to request permission from the person or organization that contributed the photo. See How can I contact the photographer who took this photo?) for more information about obtaining usage and contact information.

    Using the larger images

    Fair Use does not cover the images that are larger than the thumbnail size, i.e. larger than 194x130 pixels. To use any of those photos, you will need to request permission first from the person or organization that contributed the photo. Some contributors allow some kinds of uses without advanced permission but you must verify this first. To find out whether you need permission, check the usage information at the top of the enlargement for the photo you are interested in. You can also find usage information on the photographer's "bio" page (click on the photographer's name on the detail page.)

    This applies to downloading and saving the image on your own computer, as well as including a link on your web page that results in the image being displayed on your page.

    If you wish to use the photo for a publication or some other commercial use, you can find contact information either on the photo's "detail" page, or on the photographer's "bio" page. In some cases you may need to pay a licensing fee or reproduction expenses to use the image. Or, you may be able to order a slide or a higher resolution version of the photo.

    Using the data

    The data associated with the photos in CalPhotos is not covered under the provisions of Fair Use and you must request permission from the copyright holder before using it. "Data" includes scientific and common names for the plant or animal in the photo, locations, dates, and any notes or other text about the photo that were provided when the photo was contributed.

    This means that you may not collect text information from the CalPhotos database in order to make text or photos available on your own website, or to use it for other purposes such as generating links to CalPhotos from your website, without permission. However, it is OK to use summary information to generate links such as "Click here to see all photos of Bufo canorus in CalPhotos". See Linking to the images for instructions on how to do this.

    Some summary information is available on our website. For example, you can download a list of all the plant names we have photos for here: However, if you need other text information about multiple photos, you will need to request it from the people or organizations that contributed the photos you are interested in. Please note that the Berkeley Natural History Museums cannot provide this without permission, and we do not permit crawlers or other programs to harvest this data from our website. For more information about this, see Downloading multiple images or data.

    What is "Fair Use"?

    As of this writing, many aspects of Fair Use are still being sorted out in the courts, but in general, Fair Use means that a small thumbnail photo that you find on a website can be downloaded and saved for personal or educational use without asking permission first or paying a licensing fee. The exact size of the thumbnail has not been described in the law as far as we know, but for our purposes, a thumbnail is an image that is 194x130 pixels in size or smaller. Fair Use does not apply to images that are larger than a thumbnail or to any text information that goes with the photo. Fair Use also does not apply to commercial use or to any use that might affect the value of or the market for the original photo. If you are in doubt as to whether your use would be considered Fair Use, please check with the person or organization that contributed the photo.

    Downloading multiple images or data

    Multiple and repeated connections to CalPhotos put a strain on our web and database servers and can hamper access for other users. Therefore, the Berkeley Natural History Museums maintains a "robots.txt" file that disallows access to certain parts of our website by robots. Robots are computer programs that download web pages; they are also known as spiders or crawlers. Robots may not run queries to CalPhotos or directly access the image directories. We monitor repeated connections to the images from the same host, and we may deny access to hosts that appear to be running a program to download images or data from our web server.

    We also ask that users not download multiple images and data from CalPhotos without permission. It is not in our interest or that of our contributors to have uncontrolled subsets of these holdings available elsewhere on the Internet. We make corrections, add text, add images, etc. on a continual basis, and we want the most current set of images and text to be the only one generally available to all Internet users.

    If you would like to link to multiple images in CalPhotos, please see the next section for instructions.

    If you need multiple images or data for some other purpose, you will need permission from the person or organization that provided the photos you are interested in. Please see the information above about using thumbnails, larger images, and text data.

    Linking to the images

    There are two types of links you can create on your own web page to display photos from CalPhotos: 1) linking to groups of photos, or 2) linking to a specific photo. Instructions for creating both types of links can be found on this page: How to Link to the Photos.

    Creating links to a group of photos does not usually require permission in advance. However, creating a link to a specific photo may require permission from the copyright holder of the photo. See below for details.

    1) Linking to groups of photos
    You can create a link on your web page that users can click on to see groups of photos that match a particular query. Some examples: "Photos of Bufo canorus" or "Trees in Monterey County". These links will generate a query to CalPhotos and bring up a page of thumbnail images that match the query. See How to Link to the Photos for instructions. For plants, we provide a list of scientific names that we have photos for here: This list is updated daily, and can be used to create links to photos from websites that provide information about plant species, such as the Plants Database.

    2) Linking to a specific photo
    You can create a link to a specific photo in CalPhotos without first asking permission as long as the photo is displayed on the CalPhotos website when a user clicks on your link. If you create a link to a specific CalPhotos photo that results in the photo being displayed on your web page (in html terms, using the tag "IMG SRC="), then you must follow the usage guidelines above to determine whether your use is "Fair Use" or if it requires permission. See Using the thumbnails, Using the larger images, and Using the data. Even though you have not actually downloaded the image and saved it to your own computer, displaying it on a page other than a CalPhotos page may require permission from the copyright holder depending on whether your use falls under the Fair Use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law.

    How to cite CalPhotos

    For citing CalPhotos, we recommend this format:
    CalPhotos. 2012. Regents of the University of California, Berkeley. Accessed on April 4, 2012. Available online at:

    Replace the date (month, day, year) in this example with the date you accessed the site.

    CalPhotos is a project of BNHM   University of California, Berkeley

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    this page last updated: Jun 5, 2024