Copyright, Fair Use, and Crediting Creative Commons Media

It’s important that you consider issues of copyright when creating content for presentation online. Some copyright exemptions are allowed for resources used in a face-to-face classroom, but these exemptions don’t extend to course content presented online. For example, many faculty do a web search for images online and incorporate them into e-learning projects, but depending on the images and the use, this may be an infringement on copyright. If any image or video will do, it’s best to find one that is not copyrighted or that is made available for free use.

Media that is under copyright may still be used in situations of Fair Use. Please read the library’s discussion of fair use as it pertains to used copyrighted works for educational purposes. Please follow up with Hillary Corbett if you have questions.

As a rule of thumb, Fair Use generally doesn’t permit you to use a copyrighted image for purely illustrational purposes, but a more educational use might allow you to use that same image. Consider the two examples below:

  • You shouldn’t post a copyrighted photo of a car as an illustration because you’re talking about hybrid systems in cars in general.
  • You might be able to make a fair use claim if you post a picture of that same car along with an arrow pointing to the center of mass and use it in a discussion about how weight is distributed differently in different cars.

The second use would be considered both an educational and a transformative use. Read more about the four factor test here.

Whether you believe your use to be copyrighted but covered under Fair Use, or whether you’re using images in the Creative Commons or public domain, you should gather credit information to display in your project as you go so that you aren’t scrambling to find this information later.

There is a place for images used as illustrations in e-learning. Images break up the text and add visual interest to your e-learning. If you are using an image as illustration, though, be sure that it is an image that is freely available for use (Creative Commons or public domain image). There are also stock photo sites that sell images, but they tend to be expensive, and for many purposes, you can find images that are Creative Commons licensed that have the same impact.

Creative Commons Licenses

Media that was created under a Creative Commons license have some permissions built in. The specific permissions will depend on the license the item was published under. You can read up on the six license types at the Creative Commons site.

public domain: you can use this resource in any way you'd like without crediting it; attribution required: You must credit the author in the way the author has asked to be credited. At least provide the title of the work and the authors name. A link is always appreciated.; Share-alike: Your new work must be licensed under the same license as the work you would like to incorporate.; no derivatives: You must use the work as-is without altering it (note that you may alter it if you are invoking Fair Use. ); non-commercial uses only:You may not charge to access the work.

A cheat sheet that shows how these licensing requirements can be combined together is placed below:

CC License Chart

Crediting Images and Other Resources

Images that are in the public domain do not need to be credited, though you may want to credit the image to help students understand its relevance. Most images created before 1924 are in the public domain. In addition, many images created by government bodies are also public domain. Most Creative Commons images do need to be credited. These credits can appear anywhere in your project, including a closing credits slide, unless an author asks you to credit their work on the same page that you use it.

If you want to make things easy for yourself, just keep a list of credits as you go, and list them at the end. A good credit format is this:

“Name of item” by [Author]. [Abbreviation of specific license (i.e. CC-By-Sa) with link to license] [link to the item].

Sometimes authors don’t provide their real name. In this case “Wikipedia user [username]” is fine.