Copyright and what you can use

Delves into what and how you can use resources in a public online space. Hint: you just can't use anything you find online.

The perils of copyright

Did you know that you can NOT just re-use any image, music, video or other resource you find on the Internet in your own work?

Did you know that you can NOT just re-use resources produced by someone else without first having their permission?

Did you know that you will lose marks for Assignment 1 if you include resources in your online artefact for which you do not have permission?

How do you ask?

The purpose of this book is to explain why this is the case and explain how you can get permission to reuse resources.

It can be embarrassing if you don't

The Premier of NSW is currently (early 2015) in an election campaign and it appears that someone in his office thought it would be a good idea to join in the "Mean Tweets" meme. The video of the Premier reading mean tweets about himself was produced and placed onto YouTube. But you won't find it on YouTube as he reports on Twitter.

What isn't explicitly mentioned in this tweet is that the video was removed because of copyright infringement. The video made use of popular songs as a backing track. The problem is that they had not asked for permission to use those songs in their video.

This story from the ABC goes onto explain in more detail.

Looking at the Premier's tweet will illustrate the problems that this can bring. Just read the replies to his tweet.

I've asked for permission

Have you noticed the images I place on the Study Desk each week? Such as the one to the right?

Not my image

These are not my images. I didn't create them. In fact, they were created and shared as part of an educational technology course at a Canadian university. If you click on the image you can see the photo as part of the collection of photos for that course.

Did I ask for permission?

Yes, I did.

Do you see the caption under the image? Click on the image, you'll be taken to the original. This is evidence that I have "asked" for permission to reuse this photo.

ICT capability, digital literacy and digital citizenship

Knowledge of how to ask for permission and why you need to ask permission is linked to the ICT general capability and also to ideas of digital literacy and digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship

Digital Citizenship is a phrase that is becoming increasingly better known. It is a topic that we will revisit later in the semester. Wikipedia offer this definition

A digital citizen commonly refers to a person utilizing information technology (IT) in order to engage in society, politics, and government participation.
This blog provides the following short definition of digital citizenship
digital citizenship means the ability to use technology safely, responsibly, critically, and pro-actively to contribute to society.

Too often Digital Citizenship is equated solely with safety and avoiding cyber-bullying or similar. It is in fact, much more than this. But more on that later in the semester.

Digital Citizenship and the ICT general capability

Hopefully you can see the connection between the definition of Digital Citizenship above and the following quote from the Australian Curriculum's ICT capability

To participate in a knowledge-based economy and to be empowered within a technologically sophisticated society now and into the future, students need the knowledge, skills and confidence to make ICT work for them at school, at home, at work and in their communities.

Level 5 of the learning continuum for the ICT general capability includes:

Recognise intellectual property
apply practices that comply with legal obligations regarding the ownership and use of digital products resources

Beyond teaching our students to become digital citizens. It's incumbent upon us to be effective practitioners of Digital Citizenship.

Professional standards for teachers

As it happens, this also connects with AITSL Professional Teachers standard 4.5

4.5. Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant issues and the strategies available to support the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

Australian copyright law

What is intellectual property and what you can do with it is defined by the appropriate law. The law changes from country to country. For this course, we'll focus on the Australian law.

What do you know about Australian Copyright law?

Have you searched Google images for an image to include in a blog post yet? Did you know you've probably broken Australian copyright law?

The following video talks about some of the limitations inherent in Australian Copyright Law, especially as applied to the new digital world.

As a teacher, you need to know how to legally navigate this situation. As someone completing the first assignment for this course, you need to demonstrate that you have this knowledge.

But I've used Google images in other assignments?

If you have used an image found via Google images in a previous assignment, then you may not actually be breaking the law. Australian copyright law has a fair dealing provision for students doing assignments. However, for assignment 1 we are going to apply a stricter set of requirements for the following reasons:

  1. You need to demonstrate your understanding of the constraints that non-students must face. You need to demonstrate your ability to act as a digital citizen and awareness of the law.
  2. Your assignment will be a public online artefact. It's not something that only I or the markers see.

    Uploading something to a public website lays outside the fair dealing provision.

This page from Sydney University provides some more detail on Australian copyright law and how it applies to you as a student.

How to get permission

The following pages go into more detail about how you get permission to reuse a resource. In summary, it goes something like this. You have permission to reuse a resource on a public website if:

  1. You created the resource.

    i.e. you took the photo, drew the diagram, took the movie etc.

  2. The resource is within the public domain.

    Public domain resources no longer have intellectual property rights. The Internet Archive is a great source for resources typically in the public domain.

  3. The resource is licensed with a Creative Commons of other license that allows for reuse without asking for permission.

    This (Creative Commons licensing) is the approach I use for the images on the Study Desk and my lectures. More on finding such resources and on properly attributing the resource is covered later in this book.

    If you are using a site such as Weebly or Wix, they may provide a collection of stock photos that people are allowed to reuse. These will typically fall under this category, but check the details on the specific site. These resources typically don't require attribution, however, for the purposes of the assignment please add a footnote or similar somewhere along the lines of

    All unattributed images provided by Wix photo library
  4. You ask for permission from the copyright holder.

    If none of the above applies, then you need to ask the copyright holder for permission. This might involve paying a fee, or it might just mean asking nicely.

What's the copyright status on this resource?

Anyone who creates a resource automatically receives copyright ownership of that resource. Put another way, every resource has some form of copyright on it. For example, you have copyright ownership of all of the blog posts you author.

How do you identify what the copyright status of a resource is?

Finding it can be hard

One of the issues is that it's not always common for people or organisations to clearly specify what licence they've applied to their work. By default normal copyright applies.

Discovering what a copyright owner's perspective on reuse often requires trawling through the web pages and sites they've produced. It can sometimes be found in an "about" page or similar. But it is rare.

Have you licensed your blog posts?

If you visit my blog and look at the bottom of the right-hand column, you should see a Creative Commons license. I've made the decision to adopt this license.

This page explains how this was done.

By default, assume copyright

If you can't find any explicit mention of a licence, then you must assume traditional copyright applies. In Australia that means you can only make use of someone else's videos, photos etc if they give you permission to do so or your use fits under fair dealing.

For the purposes of your artefact, fair dealing doesn't apply as your artefact is on the public web.

Using Creative Commons resources

One way to find digital resources you can use is to find those that have a Creative Commons licence. This is a licence that explicitly allows you to use the resource (with some conditions) without having to ask for permission.

Doing this involves two simple steps:

  1. Find resources with a Creative Commons licence.

    One good way is to use the Creative Commons search.

  2. Attribute the resource appropriately.

    For many resources licenced with Creative Commons, you simply can't just use the resource. You have to attribute the resource appropriately.

The following provides examples of how to do this.


This blog post from a Melbourne teacher librarian talks about ImageCodr a browser extension and website can be used to attribute images with Creative Commons licenses.

ImagCodr only works if you are able to insert HTML. i.e. you won't be able to do this with a Powerpoint or Prezi presentation. In these other situations, you will need to download the image onto your computer, import it into the program you're using and manually enter the attribution information. This PDF from Creative Commons Australia summarises how to attribute Creative Commons material (i.e. how to manually do what ImageCodr does).

A video example

The following 7 minute video shows how I use the Creative Commons search and ImageCodr to find and reference images.

Using creative commons from David Jones on Vimeo.

Visual and HTML mode

The following video shows how to copy and paste the HTML code provides by ImagCodr into a Wordpress blog. It illustrates a more general process of copying and pasting HTML code into the standard editors used on most websites. e.g. an approach similar to this will work on discussion forum posts in the Study Desk.

Visual and HTML mode on Wordpress from David Jones on Vimeo.

What about music?

If you wish to use music in a web-based artefact, then essentially the same recipe applies:

  1. You normally just can't use any old music you wish.
  2. You need to ask permission for most music unless it's explicitly shared.
  3. You should aim to use music licensed using Creative Commons or some other means that allows re-use.

Additional resources

Some outside resources that expand upon this include:

What about YouTube videos?

If a YouTube video includes an option to Share and in particular an option to Embed the video, then you can typically use it in a public website.

The assumption is that by allowing this option to be available, the provider of the video is giving you permission to embed it. To use it.


The embed code provided by YouTube contains appropriate attribution. There's no need for any additional attribution.

Check it was uploaded by the copyright holder

Imagine that you've just found on YouTube a copy of the first episode from the next series of Game of Thrones. Even better, it has the share option enabled so you can embed the video in your blog or web page.

Should you embed this video?

Do you think the person who uploaded the video to YouTube was the copyright owner?

A popular show like Game of Thrones would never post the first episode of a new series onto YouTube before the series aired on television. This suggests that the person who uploaded the video was not the copyright holder for the video. Hence, they don't have permission to upload it or to give you permission to use it.

If it's likely that the uploader of the video is the copyright holder, don't embed the YouTube video.

Whether embedding the video is against the law is difficult to answer, but embedding the video is certainly questionable.

Referencing and attribution advice for Assignment 1

It's not a report

Remember, your web-based artefact for assignment 1 should not be seen as a report or an essay. Don't write a report. Instead, your artefact is intended to be a web-based resource that persuades your learners' parents about the use of ICT and pedagogy.

For referencing, this means that an APA reference list will not be entirely sufficient or appropriate. Please see this page for more detail on "referencing" for Assignment 1.

How do I reference?

Your web-based artefact should:

  1. Ensure that people using your artefact are able to access any resources or other work you reference.

    If you mention a website, provide a link to it so that the reader can find out more. If you (and you should) reference academic or professional literature to support your reasons for using ICT, then you should (where possible) provide a link to that literature and also include where appropriate proper references to the literature.

  2. Fulfils all appropriate legal and copyright requirements.

    i.e. don't use copyright resources in inappropriate ways.

Some referencing guidelines to follow for your online artefact:

  1. Ensure that you follow all legal and ethical requirements for attribution.
  2. Make sure that it is clear whether work or resources is your own or that of someone else.

    If the marker cannot see any detail about a resource and its copyright status, they will need to assume that it is not yours.

  3. Use genre/format specific referencing.

    For example,

    • It's an online artefact, then a link to the original resources is good.
    • If you've produced an Infographic, video or audio artefact (artefacts in which it's hard to add textual attributions) embed your artefact in a web page and ensure the web page includes any necessary text-based references/attributions.

What about my blog?

A number of people have used images in their blog posts. It appears likely that quite a few of them have not asked for permission appropriately.

If you're one of these people, you:

  1. won't lose marks on your blog;

    The rubric for the learning journal only counts number of blog posts, average word count, and number of links. It doesn't look any further.

  2. should look at fixing the images; and,

    In many cases there will not be any negative ramifications for using photos for which you haven't asked permission. However, as your blog is a public record of your actions. You do need to demonstrate your ability against Professional Teachers standard 4.5.

    Fixing your blog posts to demonstrate appropriate use of images would provide a good demonstration of this.

  3. perhaps think about writing a blog post about this.

    Such a blog post would be a useful piece of evidence for your professional portfolio against standard 4.5.

Conclusions and what is next?

To use any form of resources in a public forum (such as a website) you must have the permission of the copyright owner for that resource. If you use resources for your online artefact, then you should make sure you have clearly attributed each resource.