Creating, sharing, and using – What’s the deal with copyright?

Connecting copyright with academic honesty and creativity – that’s where I begin. The three go together, right?

Creative Commons Licensed.

Creative Commons Licensed.

But, how to connect these?

I wrote this question yesterday… Today, I respond: firstly, you can connect these, by being an example. I use Pixabay to image search. I use Canva to create. That’s a start.

The librarian in me hasn’t taken this seriously enough in the past. When I say “serious” I don’t mean serious in terms of being the enforcer on a school campus. Instead, I mean moving the conversation from theft – accidental or intentional – to opportunity.  In my experience, nobody likes a watchdog and nobody likes being the watchdog. Could just be that I’m not all that mature and still view the world like a child, but I don’t like the idea, even as a librarian, of saying “you can’t do this” and ” you can’t do that”. While money is at the essence of copyright laws and, generally, we’re not trying to make money- we should look deeper into the possibility of creating our own and not plagiarizing.

Licensed under CC from Wikipedia.

Licensed under CC from Wikipedia.

With that, should the opportunity arise where copyright laws need to be visited, it would be awesome to find something that isn’t dry, boring, and patronizing. This remix video from Standford’s  cyberlaw blog is awesome.


The conversation, in an educational setting and creative setting, must be “let’s think and talk about this, ya know? What’s our goal here? Personally, my goal is for students to be inspired enough to create. Copyright and plagiarism aren’t an issue, but I’d also like to drive a vintage corvette. Neither are happening anytime soon.

In a practical sense, where students face so many pressures and might get desperate (I’ll share an experience later), to be part of the solution, I should be ready to offer guidance. This flowchart created by Meryl Zeidenberg and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano posted on is easy to understand and, hopefully, use.



I have a couple different takes on how this might be used. Firstly, spread the word with teachers, put it on the library website, post it above the copy machine, and, most importantly, talk about it with students.

Going back, though, in my own experience, copyright always seems like the elephant in the room in some schools. Nobody want to talk about it. Working in China where pirated DVDs are considered a perk of living here, people often think there are no copyright laws here. Not true. It’s lengthy, boring, and nobody really wants to be burdened by such a document. Is it my job to know it all, as a librarian? Yea, probably. Should I read it and know? Yea, probably. Will I? Probably not…. Unless, there’s an opportunity to help someone or myself learn.

I’m just going to assume that all of us in schools are obligated in the same ways to teach about ethical use of information and opportunities to create. Is that wrong? Use this chart. Use and teach using creative commons. If we, really, need to borrow an image, song, or video clip, when that occasion arises, then, perhaps, we can take a deeper look at the laws. Other options, of course = common sense and teaching copyright.

It’s worth mentioning an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was working on creating a movie about librarians, and all the images I wanted to use were not licensed under Creative Commons. The best images I found were through google images and from people’s blogs. So, I found two images – taken from what looked like newspaper cartoons – both were from well followed, established blogs. I couldn’t find who created the original cartoons. The only info I had was the blog. I really wanted to use the images. I could have created my own image – that would have taken time – and I don’t think mine would have been as good. Teachable moment?!? You fool – create your own! Like students, though probably, I felt time was an issue and my own image wouldn’t be as good.

Anyway, I emailed the blogger and asked about the cartoon. She basically replied stating she couldn’t remember where it came from and was going to take down the image. She was nervous, I think, that she had been caught breaking a law… I ended up not using the image. After all, it was a blog post torching librarians, and I’m a librarian. Actually, maybe in a sense she did get busted! Ha

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