Copyright and Attribution

While the web is an exciting world full of amazing digital resources, unfortunately the ability to download media from the internet does not mean it is free for us to use. In fact, most images sources through Google images for example are copyright protected, this means you should not use them without permission in your publications.

There are however many wonderful resources we can ethically use and we need to teach by example showing our students how to source and use digital materials responsibly. This means crediting sources and using resources appropriately and fairly according to guidelines for attribution and fair use. This process also enables students to develop the skills and knowledge required of digital citizens to confidently choose and use digital resources without fear of breaking the law.

It is important that students learn to always create bibliographies which cite all resources used in their work.  Use of images and sound need to follow the attribution and copyright set by the creator.

Two approaches to using the work of others are:

  • Creative Commons
  • Public Domain


Creative Commons

Creative Commons licensed resources offer a far easier solution. Creative Commons licenced resources do not require permission for use but they do require attribution. This means that the creator has agreed for others to use this work as long they are credited. Go to Creative Commons Licencing for more information.

PD: Public Domain publicdomain.png

The only resources which do not require permission or attribution are those indicated as being in the Public Domain. These are works whose intellectual property rights no longer apply, having expired or otherwise been dissolved. For example many early silent films, and the works of Shakespeare. There is no need to attribute or acknowledge Public Domain Works but using the PD symbol indicates that this is not plagiarised or unattributed material. Please be aware that copyright expires at different times in different countries. In Australia, this is generally 70 years after the death of the creator.

It is possible to search for resources using ‘public domain’ in the search.

Teaching about copyright

Nothing beats the real thing is a multimodal online resource for investigating aspects of copyright and film and TV piracy in Australian secondary classrooms to help students know what they can legitimately copy in creating their own work. This is produced by The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation, a broad membership of film and television organisations in Australia.

All Right to Copy? is an interactive guide for students to learn about what they can and cannot do when they wish to use the work of others. Each topic is introduced in a video where two students, Donna and Joe are trying to put together a website for a competition. Along the way they confront the issues of using other people’s material. It is produced by the Centre for Learning and Innovation, New South Wales Department of Education and Training with assistance from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

From ‘All right to copy’ CC by Smartcopying Australia

Information on appropriate use of the different types of media is given in each of the sections.

Teaching Copyright is a comprehensive set of lesson plans teaching copyright in the classroom by The Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA) and recommended by Creative Commons.

Featured image: Copyright CC by Mike Seyfan, some rights reserved

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