Archive:Copyright Howto For Professors

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Goals of This Guide

  • show profs where to get images (and other media) for their slideshows (or other course materials)
    • so that their course materials are suitable for publishing online as an OER (such as OCW)
  • approach from the angle of making life easier for professors. this is all about them having to worry _less_ about copyright issues
  • super duper simple and step-by-step and brief and approachable
  • this idea is to eventually get school libraries (or other parts of schools) to host a version of this guide on their websites. we're also looking to put it in pamphlet form. and we'll probably give a completed version to the OCWC to include with their resources. so please note that your edits may be part of something that will be posted elsewhere (i don't imagine that will bother any of you).

On With The Show

This is a guide for professors who want to use outside material (images, video, text, etc) in their course materials without having to worry about copyright infringement. This makes it easy to share your course materials with others inside and outside of the university without legal worries.

Where to Get Material


Public Domain

Creative-Commons Licensed

  • Wikimedia Commons: Great for diagrams and figures. Some photographs as well. Most of this content is Creative Commons licensed, but some is in the public domain. Each piece has its own copyright information attached.
  • Flickr CC Search: Original photographs from all around the world. Huge database.


Public Domain

Because of the length of copyright term, there are very few videos that are in the public domain. Mostly just Birth of a Nation, some NASA footage, and Dawn of the Dead. There are probably some more things at the internet archive.

Creative-Commons Licensed


Public Domain

Creative-Commons Licensed


Public Domain

Creative-Commons Licensed


Proper attribution is Key to avoiding copyright issues.

Attributing a Creative Commons Licensed Work

From the Creative Commons FAQ:

If you are using a work licensed under one of our core licenses, then the proper way of accrediting your use of a work when you're making a verbatim use is: (1) to keep intact any copyright notices for the Work; (2) credit the author, licensor and/or other parties (such as a wiki or journal) in the manner they specify; (3) the title of the Work; and (4) the URL for the work if applicable.

You also need to provide the URL for the Creative Commons license selected with each copy of the work that you make available.

If you are making a derivative use of a work licensed under one of our core licenses, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work, ie. “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author]” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

Further recommendations and guidelines for marking works can be found at the CC Marking project.

Attributing Public Domain Media

Legally, this is not required. However, scholarly ethics may call for attribution. Attribute as you see fit.

What If I Can't Find What I need?

Fair Use

Because you are in an academic environment, some uses of copyrighted material may be acceptable without permission. Relying on fair use for your course materials is discouraged when it's not entirely necessary because it is determined by context, so as you decide to publish your course materials in other places, you may have to re-evaluate whether or not you are still protected by fair use. That being said, fair use is sometimes the best solution when you need to use a piece of media and there just isn't a good openly-licensed or public domain alternative. For example, you could never replace a historically significant piece of literature, art, or film that is still under copyright with a free alternative, but even those would generally only constitute fair use where the inclusion of the work in question is necessary for some element of understanding the material and not merely decorative. Heck, Wikipedia even does it, but note their specific rationales.

Here is a guide to determine whether or not a use of copyrighted material is fair use

This more detailed guide might be helpful too

Make it Yourself

If you're looking for something, chances are that other professionals are looking for it too. Make it yourself, openly license it, and publish it so that it can be of use to others.

License and Publish Your Own Work

If you're finding value in openly licensed media, then the best way to say thank you is to contribute back to the commons! Who knows, maybe your work will get passed around until it ends up the hands of a potential collaborator or employer.


We recommend using a Creative Commons license because it allows you to specify exactly how you want your work to be used. Simply use the CC License Chooser.


That openly licensed work won't be of use to anyone unless it is published in a way that is free and accessible. The internet is a great place to do this. You can use the school's or your academic department's website, or you can use one of the many other free publishing resources available online.

  • Flickr is a great place to publish images. You can use their interface to automatically attach a Creative Commons license to your work.
  •, like flickr, allows you to include cc licenses right from their upload screen.

notes/discussion (not part of the guide)

Kevin Donovan says to scrape this post for any useful stuff to add: [1] which is probs a good idea

Dominic says:

I haven't made any changes because I'm not quite sure how to correct it, but one problem I see is the conflation of "Creative Commons licensed" with some concept like "freely licensed." Not all CC licenses are free, and not all free licenses are CC (and for instance, much of the free Wikimedia Commons media is GFDL, not a CC license).

This could be dangerous when someone who doesn't understand the difference between a free CC license and one like the No Derivatives-Non-Commercial one ends up at flickr finding unfree CC images and thinking they're doing the right thing. Of course, this probably complicates things a lot more than the current text has it.

/end Dominic says

--i omitted this because i was worried that profs would too easily end up using it to find non-cc items (especiall with the google search. -Parker ccSearch: use this to search more broadly, but be careful. For example, the google results will have one cc license on them, but not necessarily everything on the page/site is cc-ed

this is useful as part of implementing OCW. professors need to be taught how to use openly licensed images in their slideshow presentations so that their slideshows can be put online.

" get your images from a flickr cc search or wikimedia commons. not google images. here are the links, and here (briefly) is why it matters. also, here is how to openly license and publish images of your own. "

let's flesh this out!

potential model:

Why Does Copyright Matter To Me? -Teaching -Creating

What Is Copyright? -[quick definition]

How Does Copyright Affect Me? -Unless you teach only public domain material, your courses are going to use copyrighted material. When you assign readings, add images to lecture slides or assign papers, copyright is going to be involved. Luckily, copyright has an exception of sorts which allows teachers a wide breadth to pursue their educational mission.

What Is Fair Use? -[defintion]