EdTech @ ISB

Transforming Teaching & Learning

Copyright & Fair Use

It has never been easier for learners and teachers to develop outstanding multimedia content using educational technology. When we create media such as movies, posters, worksheets or presentations we have unlimited inspiration and resources available at the touch of a screen. But do you fully understand the line between inspiration and plagiarism? Do you know what constitutes “fair use”? Are you modelling your understanding of copyright to your class and your peers?

Understanding copyright and the ethical use of intellectual property is:

  • a critical component of 21st century education and digital citizenry
  • referenced throughout Common Core & ISTE Standards
  • an increasingly useful professional and life skill

Fortunately, there are lots of resources to support you and your students learn about the importance of copyright and brush up on your searching, referencing and creative skills!

What is Copyright & Fair use?

How can I model ethical use of copyright material to my students and peers?

  • Make sure you have permission to use the material
  • Credit the creator and source of any 3rd party material you use, regardless of copyright status. This will demonstrate to our students that copyright and attribution are real and important.
  • Buy the material (if necessary)
  • Use copyrighted material responsibly
  • Understand the various different statuses of copyright (usage rights)
  • Explore some of the tools that will help you navigate usage rights and attribution

What is “Fair Use”?

Fair Use” basically means the specific contexts in which you are allowed to use material regardless of copyright status as outlined below. Although even in these cases you should still properly attribute any copyright 3rd party material. Fair Use applies to the following contexts:

  • Schoolwork & Education
  • News Reporting
  • Criticising & Commenting
  • Parody

In each of these contexts, Fair Use requires that:

  • You only use a small portion of the copyrighted material
  • You add new meaning to the work to make it original
  • You rework the material and use it in a totally different way to the original
  • You use the copyrighted material for non-commercial purposes

Usage rights

When we require an image for a presentation or project we typically do a quick Google search and quickly save the images we want to use (often directly from the image search). But in doing this, there is a good chance we are using images inappropriately (even if we attribute the source and/or creator!). Google and most other search engines allow us to view images by different usage rights, but what does this even mean?

  • Labeled for Reuse
    You may use this image for non-commercial purposes as specified in the license
  • Labeled for Commercial Reuse
    You may use the image for commercial purposes (things you will make money from)
  • Labeled for Reuse with Modification
    You may use the image and modify it if you like

Regardless of which search engine you use, make sure you always click through to the original website (don’t just take the image from the Google search result as Google do now own the images in your search results). This will allow you to properly attribute the image and check if there are further terms on the image’s website. For example, Flickr offers a great range of reusable images accompanied by specific attribution expectations. The added bonus in doing this is that you may be able to find additional images or information!


Attribution basically means giving credit to the author of any intellectual property (images, songs, etc) we include in our work. is a bit like citation in a research paper. Any time we use 3rd party material in our work it should be attributed. As a minimum, you should always show the name of the author and the source of the material. But different sources will have their own expectations for attribution so be sure to find out what each website requires. For example, some sources will require a hyperlink back to the original website, or a specific symbol be included. If all of this sounds like a lot of work please understand that once you include it in your workflow it will become easier – and our work as teachers will be even more effective for our students.

Below are some examples of different attribution requirements. As we add more sources for reusable images to this blog we will endeavour to include the different attribution guidelines.

Tools for teachers & students

There will always be a time for the good old Google image search, but there are so many more useful image/resource banks designed specifically for helping teachers and learners navigate the complex world of copyright. Below is a short list to get you started and we will add more comprehensive guides to some of these tools to this section of the blog over time.

  • Creative Commons
    A rich bank of tools and resources to help people access and share easy-to-use copyright licences for a range of creative work.
  • Flickr
    A bank of billions of images, many of which are high resolution and free to use under Creative Commons licensing with clear attribution guidelines.
  • Freepik.com
    A hub of free images, graphics and templates for download and editing with clear attribution guidelines.
  • Photos for Class
    Useful Creative Commons image library with a good range of images and as an added bonus, downloaded images are automatically watermarked with attribution details.
  • Pixabay
    Millions of free images and graphics that don’t require any attribution.
  • The Noun Project
    Millions of free to use graphic icons.

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