Posts Tagged ‘fair use’

Can I Use That?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

As mentioned in our readings this week, sometimes it is hard to determine what online material can be dropped into a PowerPoint or a video.  “Information that is at your fingertips is often believed to have no copyright laws protecting it because it is accessible and it is found online” (Coffman 2013).  Usually, all you have to do is right-click, and you can choose from options that prompt you to save the image or copy the image for later use.  The simplicity of it can be tempting, and we usually don’t think twice before using anything we find on Google Images.  I know that most of the PowerPoints I have saved and used for classes are full of images I found online, but after fixing my search options on Google and by looking at other sites, it turns out that finding reusable sources is easier than I expected.

One source that I particularly liked from Dr. Coffman’s suggestions was the Multicolr site, which allows you to search by color.  You can pick up to five colors, and there are hundreds of usable images right at your fingertips.  I enjoyed using this site, and found it to be not only useful, but fun!  I can imagine using this site when creating PowerPoint presentations. I like using color schemes and having everything match in my presentations, so this site allows me to search for images that are the exact colors I need.

I was also able to find free, usable pictures on Morgue File.  As assigned for this post, I was able to find a picture of an adorable, amusing cat:

tigger cat

Uploaded from Morgue File

While this website didn’t have as many options to choose from as, say, Google Images would, this site was easy to use and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could download the image legally.  I checked out the license for this image and found that I was free to:

  • Remix – to adapt the work.
  • Commercial – to use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Without Attribution – to use without attributing the original author.(“Morgue file”)

I would not, however be able to use the image in the following ways:

  • Stand alone basis – You can not sell, license, sublicense, rent, transfer or distribute this image exactly as it is without alteration.
  • Ownership – You may not claim ownership of this image in its original state. (“Morgue file”)

I think that these restrictions are perfectly fair, and I can do a lot with the image without going against the license.  Like Dr. Coffman wrote, “Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean that it’s OK for you to reuse for your own creations” (Coffman, 2013).  We often don’t consider this because copy/paste is supposedly easier, but other search engines and settings prove that no more time or energy is wasted looking at free-use sites than Google Images.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to model good behavior for our students.  It used to be that we only had to worry about being good citizens, treating others fairly, or teaching students about plagiarism.  Our work is really cut out for us now because in the Internet Age, we have to teach them about Fair Use, about the reliability of sources, and about the ways in which the Internet can both help and hinder them.  These students have grown up with the Internet, and they think that they are already more proficient in it than we are.  In some ways that is true, but a teenager isn’t necessarily going to worry about whether the song or video he is downloading is illegal.  It is part of our job to provide our students with a safe learning environment, and teaching our students about copyright is one way to ensure that they are putting effort into their work and that they are using the Internet safely.

A good resource for teachers to post in their classroom or pass out as a handout is the Can I Use It? flowchart provided by Dr. Coffman (NCTE, 2007).  This chart is an easy way for students (and teachers) to figure out what they can use from online.  It also serves to show students that there is no excuse not to think about what materials they can use online.  By showing them how simple it is to check licenses, or to cite their sources, we put the responsibility on the students to pay attention to where they are getting images and text.


Morgue file. (n.d.). Retrieved from

NCTE. (2007). Retrieved from              

Coffman, T. (2013). Week 3 reflection blog post: Copyright. Unpublished raw data, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, , Available from Canvas. Retrieved from