Do You Have the Right to Use It?

How often have you seen students paste in images they’ve found on Google into projects? How about taking music from YouTube and inserting them into slideshows? Copyright and giving credit to the authors of work often go by the wayside in Asia and other parts of the developing world. But is this fair? What is our obligation as educators?

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Since starting at the International School Bangkok, when I was first introduced to Compfight, I’ve encouraged students to use safe tools to search for images and give attributions (with a lot of support from our fantastic Technology Coach, Chrissy Hellyer). It is amazing to see how quickly most students catch onto this, how eloquently they can talk about copyright symbols and what they stand for, and how easily they can find and attribute images to enhance their work. This is ultimately the goal we should aim for as teachers, and we should advocate for fair use of media in the classroom.

This is not to say that everything goes 100% smoothly all the time. Some students take a long time to copy and paste attributions. Others lose documents and attributions. And of course there are always those who turn up to class with projects plastered with pictures taken straight from Google searches. Do I toss their work into the bin? Certainly not. But I do talk about my expectations and how I would like them to search for and cite the creator of images in the future.

What are the implications of this? Only that we should continue to talk about fair use of media in the classroom and instil the idea that we are using products that some people rely on for their livelihood. We may be in their position at some stage in our lives and do we want people taking our ideas and using them as their own? This is also the case for many of us who live in Asia or other parts of the world where Copyright laws are lax or don’t exist. It’s our job to inform students of their rights and responsibilities, and then encourage them to make informed decisions.

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As with Doug Johnson, my educational philosophy is that education is about teaching people to think rather than to believe. Johnson states that we also ‘need to help individual students arrive at personal comfort levels when using protective creative works’ (How We Teach Copyright).

This is also the case when using other forms of media, such as videos, music and clip art. YouTube is quick to take down videos which have used music without permission, and often this is just a genuine oversight on the part of the creator.

Creative Commons is the key to using images without infringing copyright laws. Creative Commons licences also give users the opportunity to use music, clip art and other forms of media with few complications. The only obligation is to check the Creative Commons licences, which often involve simply giving attributions for the images. Most often the authors also do not wish users to alter their work or make money from them either.

Other sites which provide links to Creative Commons media are Jamendo, for sources of copyright free music, the Open Clip Art Library, for accessible clip art, and SpinXpress for other forms of media.

In today’s age of technology, our access to digital tools and media is seemingly unlimited. But we do have the obligation to consider our use of digital media and give credit where it’s due. By using tools such as the Fair Use Evaluator, we can also assess our use of resources as educators in the classroom. Emphasizing the use of Creative Commons through sites such as Compfight or Wylio is the key to success with students. Informing students of the tools at their fingertips and their responsibilities as digital users will help all of us utilize the many resources available to us in the best possible way.




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6 Responses to “Do You Have the Right to Use It?”

  • Comment from Chrissy H

    Hi Cheryl
    If I am remembered for one thing during my two years as TLC at ISB, I hope it’s the use and attribution of creative commons images by students and teachers in our Elementary School. Thank you for your support and the opportunity to help you and your students continue to use technology in authentic and meaningful ways!

    • Avatar of Cheryl Terry Comment from Cheryl Terry

      You’ll be remembered for much more than that, Chrissy! Creative Commons has definitely been a great tool for both myself and my students. We’ve appreciated your help with search engines, staying safe online and many more tools and tips. Thanks for all your help over the last couple of years!

  • Avatar of Cindy Hopkins Comment from Cindy Hopkins

    Cheryl – I am glad to hear you mention the lax laws about copyrights here in Asia. It is a daily struggle for me here in Thailand as my student population is largely Thai and they just do not see things as I do morally. What I think is wrong, for them is common practice in their country and they just can’t see why I would have a problem with it. To handle this lax attitude I have very clear policies and what is accepted and what is not and my ways to check to see if they follow them. The frustration is that many times while grading I am as much a detective as I am an educator.

    Thanks for sharing all of the resource sites. I plan to check them out. And thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

    • Avatar of Cheryl Terry Comment from Cheryl Terry

      It definitely is a struggle, Cindy, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for you. But by continually talking about the issues and making clear policies I think it will slowly make a difference. Good luck and I hope that the resource sites help!

  • Avatar of Harvey Comment from Harvey

    Hello Cheryl,

    I really enjoyed your informative post. You seem to create a real culture in your classroom of individual responsibility for the respect of copyright. I have always insisted students cite sources of information when they are creating their own work, inserting maps or other images, however in terms of ‘real world’ preparation this not going to cut it, once they leave the school environment this would not be acceptable. It is clear that Creative Commons are the way forward and I appreciate the recommended sites you gave in your post, I’ll be checking them out for sure.

    • Avatar of Cheryl Terry Comment from Cheryl Terry

      Dear Harvey,

      Creative Commons does seem to be the way forward, and students start to use it automatically once they have some exposure to it. By modelling it ourselves and continuing to talk about it in class, the students start to realize that they can’t just ‘take’ anything they want from the web. Take a look at our tech coach’s blog post on Safe Search Engines too. It has been a lifesaver in my class and has made such a difference!

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