Copyright and Digital Dexterity: Re-usable content 1 – Images

by Anthony O’Brien, Copyright Advisor, University of Newcastle Library

This is the second post in a planned series that will look at considerations for copyright as part of being digitally dexterous.  

Images are one of the more common content types that creators like to include in their materials and OER but can be problematic for re-use. 

Why shouldn’t I just do a Google image search? 

Images found via Google search can have varied copyright permissions. Exceptions in your country’s copyright legislation may not cover re-use in an ‘open’ environment, meaning that you may need to either rely on licensing or permissions for your re-use.  

Looking for images that are ‘ready-to-use’ 

To simplify things, aim to use open content made available under Creative Commons (CC) or similar free licensing.  Some content may require attribution or a copyright statement for re-use, so always check what you need to do to be able to re-use images.  At the end of the post are four recommended image sites to help get you started. 

Why are these licensed images so useful? 

The majority of images you find online will be copyrighted.  Depending on your intended use, you may inadvertently infringe if you just take something and re-use it.  Where image content already has licensing attached, it is clearer what you can (and can’t) do with it. 

What if I need to seek permission for an image? 

Where you find an image that you absolutely ‘must’ re-use (and assuming it is not already appropriately licensed), you may be able to gain permission from the copyright owner for your planned re-use.  Look for a contact email (or form), and spell out what your plans for the content are (MOOC or other educational use? Blog or another web use? Commercial use?).  Your institution’s copyright office may be able to assist with this process.   

You should include a copyright statement for this re-used content, to be clear that it is outside of any licensing you might apply to your materials or OER. 

Four recommended sites: 

  • Pixabay – one of the best sites around for free media.  Includes great vector graphics.  Free licensing, where attribution is not required (but is appreciated).   
  • Unsplash – great site for images not included in Pixabay.  Images are tagged well, so searching is easy.  Free licensing, where attribution is not required (but is appreciated).   
  • Freerange Stock – up-and-coming site with some very artistic-looking images.  Free licensing, where attribution is not required (but is appreciated).  Some Public Domain content.   
  • WikiMedia Commons – contributions include options not covered in the others here, including artworks, etc.  Licensing varies, including CC and Public Domain – check any requirements for re-use. 

Being digitally copyright dextrous?

By Anthony O’Brien, Copyright Advisor, University of Newcastle Library

Cartoon image of a man with a speech bubble, containing a copyright icon

This is the first post in a planned series that will look at considerations for copyright as part of being digitally dextrous.  

When you download or use something from the web, do you actually stop to think about who owns the copyright and how you can use it?  It’s fair to say that most people don’t, and this can lead to issues later. 

But content on the web is in the public domain, right?

There’s a big difference between being publicly available and actual ‘Public Domain’ (capital letters) in terms of copyright.  Just because you can access it for free, doesn’t mean that the copyright owner will allow you to take it and use it however or wherever you like… [insert sad face here] 

Being copyright literate

When we have conversations around digital dexterity, things like ‘media literacy’ and ‘information literacy’ are usually included, but the considerations rarely extend to copyright literacy.  After all, if someone were going to, for example, remix content, true digital dexterity should also mean that they would understand what they could then do with that remixed content.  This is where a basic level of copyright literacy becomes just as important as the more recognised elements of digital dexterity. 

‘Fair use’ versus ‘fair dealing’

Part of the issue is misunderstandings around how copyright works internationally – there isn’t one system worldwide.  When users search for copyright information online, it’s inevitably something about ‘fair use’ that they find.  As Frank Ponte noted in his post on OER, ‘fair use’ is part of U.S. copyright law and is different to legislation we have here.  ‘Fair use’ tends to be broader in its application than the Australian version, ‘fair dealing’, which can cause problems.

So where can I start?

  • Look at where you’re taking your digital resources from and their potential usage issues.  Can you find appropriately-licensed alternatives (e.g. Creative Commons)? 
  • Include information on copyright and its application/s in your instruction modules and training sessions; 
  • Reach out to your institution’s copyright person and collaborate!  They might be nice (maybe definitely) and will most likely be keen to get the word out; 
  • Look out for other posts coming in this series.  Plans include images, video, music, etc., but if there’s something you’d like to see, please let us know. 

Keywords: copyright ; Creative Commons;  digital resources; fair dealing; fair use; licensing ; literacies