Editor’s Picks 2015, No. eight: Finding copyright-friendly photos for the Google Images generation

Searching and citing usable images is easy once students learn the basics

Ed. note: This year the editors selected ten stories we believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016 (look for No. 1 on Dec. 31). As educators give students more freedom to create meaningful projects, it can be easy to overlook an un-sourced image in a presentation or mixed media project. But as Kathy Schrock reminds us, proper digital citizenship means proper attribution, too.

images-ccssTeaching students to respect the intellectual property of others is important in this digital “cut and paste” world we live in. One great project to share with students that can better help them understand how and when they may use images created by others is the Creative Commons project.

Creative Commons is designed to span the gap between full copyright and the public domain. The Creative Commons project provides content creators the opportunity to state ahead of time how their images may (or may not) be used.

When an image creator posts an image online and applies a Creative Commons license to it, there are four conditions/restrictions they can apply to the image:

1.    Attribution (giving credit to the creator) is always expected.
2.    Commercial use: the creator can state whether their item can be used commercially or just non-commercially.
3.    Transformation: the creator can allow others to change their work, by mashing it up, cropping it, editing it, etc.
4.    Share alike: if the creator allows other to transform their work, they may also state, if someone wants to transform the work, the created image must carry the same Creative Commons license as the one that was transformed. I call this the “pay it forward” option.

Here is a sample of what a Creative Commons license may look like.


Now, of course, in the “old” days, we would suggest students write to image creators and ask permission to use their image. Direct permission from the image creator is still a viable option, and can usurp the Creative Commons license assigned to the image. For example, if a student has an image they would like to use in a video they are creating for a media festival which has cash prizes, that use probably would constitute commercial use of the image. If the Creative Commons license states non-commercial use only, the student can ask the image creator for permission to use it for the media festival. I have found that creators are often flattered a photograph they have taken is being used in an educational setting and will readily grant permission.

Next page: How to find Creative Commons and other free images

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