The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons

Lately, we’ve been hearing more and more about digital copyrights and fair use in the news and online – particularly with the whole SOPA/PIPA uproar that recently swept the web.

Also, we on the Edublogs support team have been getting more and more complaints and official requests to remove copyrighted content that users have placed on blogs.

The legal jargon with respect to digital copyrights can be confusing – especially since different countries have their own laws and regulations.

With this post, we hope to dispel a few myths and pull together a complete list of resources for teachers and students to use when blogging and working with content online.

Rule #1: You Can’t Use Everything You Find On the Web

Dexter the cat hates those that steal his photos…

This may seem obvious, but judging by the notices we have received, many teachers (and especially students) are under the impression that if it is on the web, then it is up for grabs.

If you and your students keep rule #1 in mind, then everything else should be fine.

Rule #2: There Are Resources You CAN Use

One of the myths out there is that you can’t use any image, video, or content from another website on your blog.

That simply isn’t true, and we’ll cover our favorite sources of “fair use” and “public domain” sources at the end of this post.

It is troubling that while copyright is important to protect the hard work of others, it can also stifle creativity and hamper educational goals. Though SOPA is effectively dead at the moment, there is a legitimate need for newer laws that are built around the open and free-sharing nature of the web.

Understanding Fair Use

You might be aware that as educators, we have a few more flexible rules, called “Fair Use”, to play by.

That is, in some cases, if an image, text, video, etc. is being used for educational purposes, there might be more flexible copyright rules.

For example, a video that was purchased in a store can usually be shown in a classroom when the video is tied to the curriculum being taught. Otherwise, showing a class full of students a video would be considered a “public performance” and would be against the law.

The trouble is, most of the laws and rules that cover fair use and education were written well before the invention of the web.

While a textbook or curricula resource might allow for photocopying for classroom use, it most likely isn’t going to allow you to make a PDF of the document and put it on your class blog or website for students to print themselves.

The end result would be the same, right? A student would have a printed copy.

But make sure to check specific copyright restrictions before uploading anything you’ve scanned to the web!

For more, check out the Fair Use FAQ for Educators here from the excellent resource site,

What Can Be a Violation?

Here are the most common types of content that we have been contacted about and asked to remove on our blogs:

  • Images – mostly found through google image search
  • Curriculum docs – especially handouts and student activities
  • Text and quotes – copy/pasted from other websites (even with a link or attribution it still may not be legal)
  • Music – usually mp3s that students have uploaded to share on their blogs

But I Won’t Be Caught…

If only that were true.

Google makes it incredibly easy for companies and content creators to seek out those posting their work on the web.

Sadly, we are also noticing more and more “law firms” and organizations out there looking for copyrighted content as a way of generating business. They then contact the copyright holder offering their services to get the content removed (for a fee of course).

It is a ruthless (and apparently profitable) practice, and we’d be lying if we haven’t argued with a few that contact Edublogs about how they are hurting the education of students. But let’s keep on topic…

What If I Am Caught?

Little did Dexter know, but he was going on this flight anyway…

Well of course in this case a good offense is your best defense. Check your blogs and class websites for any potentially offending material. If you find anything, just remove it.

The law requires copyright holders to give you (and the host of your site, such as Edublogs, WordPress, etc.) an official notification. Take these seriously and act quickly to remove what they want if you are in the wrong. That should be the end of it.

We were recently notified about a teacher with a blog on Edublogs that had a harmless world map image on his blog that he had presumably found using Google image search. When we contacted him telling him why we had removed the image, he asked if he and his students could write an apology letter to the copyright holder.

It was excellent – turning what could be a bit of an embarrassing mistake into a teachable moment for his students! Now this teacher had a good reason to discuss copyright and creative commons with his students…

So What Is Creative Commons?

One thing to look for when figuring out if a resource (ie. image, video, text, etc.) is free to copy or embed on your blog, is a Creative Commons license.

For example, look at the bottom right corner of the sidebar of this blog. You’ll see that we license all content on this blog as “Attribution – Non-Commercial - Share Alike”.

That is fancy talk for letting you know that you are free to use anything on this blog as long as you:

  1. give an attribution or credit that lets others know where you got the info with a link,
  2. won’t profit in any way from using our content and use it for non-business purposes only, and
  3. anything you create with our content, you must use the same license.

Luckily, the website has a ton of excellent information and makes it easy to grab the license you wish to have on your own blog. If you (or your students) have blogs, then it is a good idea to choose the most appropriate license and make it visible on your blog.

In our case, we pasted the code they provided into a blank text widget in our sidebar.

Where To Find The Goods

We found our dog, Durango, wandering the busy streets of Durango, Mexico!


Creative Commons Search - Search many sites at once *Our Favorite! – Free images from photographers around the world – One free photo per day – Huge resource for avatars or small images

Flickr Advanced Search – Use advanced search filters to show only CC licensed images

Morguefile – Free stock photos (Thanks Sue Lyon-Jones for link in comments!)

Open Clipart Libary – Public domain clipart (Thanks Sue Lyon-Jones for link in comments!)


You are free to embed any video from YouTube, Vimeo, WatchKnowLearn, etc. on your blog or website as long as it gives you the embed option.

That being said, you (or your students) can’t necessarily use parts from videos on YouTube (or other sources) to make mashups or as part of another video. Be sure to have permission to use any video that you are cutting, making changes to, or adding to a project.

Curriculum and Text

Wikipedia - Quote away (with a link back) to any information you find on Wikipedia

Curriki - An open curriculum community

Collaborize Classroom Library – A growing resource for discussion questions, lesson plans, and more

You won’t be able to add student resources from most textbook companies or purchased curriculum – so be careful and make sure you have permission before doing so!

Related Posts and More Info on Copyright

How To Attribute Copyrighted Works

Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Lists: Learning about copyright, best places for images, and best places for audio

Answering Reader Questions

(Edit: 2/22/2012 – This section was added to include responses to comments and tweets we’ve received since publishing the post)

In private or for-profit institutions, how can we use images and video, if at all? Is it even okay to use YouTube videos in class? What about online articles? Is there a difference between a class of paying students and a training delivered to teachers?

First, any images, videos, or content under a Creative Commons license will let you freely use the material with your student, you just may not be able to turn around and sell any changes you make. Any video on YouTube should be fine for showing in class, and if an image is on the web, you can always display the website that contains the image – where the line is drawn is on copying that image and pasting it on your own blog or website.

Can the onus not be placed on those who post these potential classroom materials, to make it clear who can and can´t or used for and not used for, surely this would be the least time consuming option.

Excellent point! Awareness of copyright and the importance of website owners to make it clear their licenses is improving. I think sticking to trusted sources and using filtered searches is the safest option.

If you can’t use images from the internet why is it that google can group all the images together for people to use?

Interesting thought for sure. Website owners can ask Google not to index their sites and images with a quick code. For bloggers, under Settings > Privacy, users can do the same thing. Not sure that really answers your question though :(

Is there a straightforward way to get the permission needed to use a ‘clip’ from a you tube video?

I’ve seen people leave a comment on the YouTube post, but there is no guarantee you’ll get a response.

Some YouTube videos are licensed under a Creative Commons license, and there is an advanced search filter on YouTube that would let you search for these. If you find one, you could use it without permission as long as you follow what the license allows (ie. provide attribution and not make money on the project).

What about the LIBRARY!?

Not so much a question, but Elijah left an excellent comment down below remind us that this is exactly why our libraries can be such valuable resources. Libraries have access to tons of licensed materials and librarians are specially trained to help us navigate the difficult copyright laws. Thanks, Elijah, for the tip!

When I get permission to post something that’s been copyrighted, am I supposed to share it a certain way so others that I have permission to use?

The answer here really depends on the license of the original content and the agreement you have with the original owner. Most of the time a link back to the original works perfect. The location of the link could be in an image caption, in the text itself, or at the end of your piece (like the “References” section of a formal paper).

Maybe APA/MLA/etc. should come out with a set of web publishing guidelines that include citations and reference lists! How would something like that even get started?

Can students read published books aloud, record themselves & publish recording on class blog?

The answer to this is probably not :(

However, many books are in the public domain – including most books written before the 1930s. These are all of the free books you see in the e-reader stores. Students would be free to record themselves and publish any book in the public domain. It should say somewhere near the beginning of the book if it is in the public domain (where copyright and publisher information usually goes).

What Do You Think?

Have we missed any important tips or good sites to find resources that are free to use?

Let us know in the comments below and we will be sure to add it to the post!

Ronnie Burt

Works for Edublogs. Former secondary math teacher and wannabe musician. Follow me on twitter @ronnieburt!

134 Responses

  1. A very useful post. Is there a straightforward way to get the permission needed to use a ‘clip’ from a you tube video? Thanks.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Thanks David! I’ve seen people leave a comment on the YouTube post, but there is no guarantee you’ll get a response.

      Some YouTube videos are licensed under a Creative Commons license, and there is an advanced search filter on YouTube that would let you search for these. If you find one, you could use it without permission as long as you follow what the license allows (ie. provide attribution and not make money on the project). Thanks!

  2. Elijah Scott says:

    You missed one huge, huge item:

    The LIBRARY!

    All academic libraries offer incredible resources that faculty can use in the classroom, without worrying about violating copyright!

    For instance, at the libraries I manage, we provide ONLINE access to upwards of 20,000 VIDEOS, millions of full-text articles, databases of thousands of images, and more — ALL of which are licensed for faculty and students to use in the classroom and in their class projects.

    GO — TO — THE — LIBRARY.

  3. Pauline Wilson says:

    Thanks for this excellent no nonsense post. Very readable and easy to understand with lots of links to other resources. Copyright can be so hard to understand but you make it so much clearer.

  4. Alice Sims says:

    I agree with what you say, and preach it to my students, but it is extremely frustrating at times. We had three of our students meet with President Obama this week at the White House Science Fair. I am co-advisor to our yearbook and we want to use at least one picture of them with the Prez. Sure, it would be easy to copy a picture off the Internet, but not ethical. Instead, we had to pay almost $200 for a picture to use. Ouch.

  5. Eric Roth says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this clear, concise, and coherent primer on a confusing, dense, and difficult topic. Your step by step guide provides practical assistance to both educators and bloggers as we navigate the exciting and still emerging internet. As somebody who has read a bit about both copyrights and copy-wrong arguments, I found your post both informative and illuminating.

  6. Stephen Baker says:

    Excellent post! If you can’t use images from the internet why is it that google can group all the images together for people to use? It seems amazing that they can do that! It’s a bit like gathering up a whole bunch of art and leaving it lying in a big pile in the middle of the street and then telling people not to touch it. Trying to police people using images from google is just not possible!

  7. @mrslauraw says:

    Here is a little booklet my husband and I put together for a teacher PD session he led. It is from an Australian perspective (i.e. Australian laws) yet has many tips and links relevant to a teacher from any part of the world. Hope this is helpful:

  8. Hi Ronnie,

    Fabulous post! I appreciate how much I continue to learn from you. I had no idea that I couldn’t use quotes from others even with attribution. Before the web existed, that’s how we were taught and it’s what was expected. I remember looking for quotes in my college library to add to my research papers. We’d quote a source, then add it to our bibliography. So, if it is in paper print, such as a book I purchased, can I quote that to add in a presentation or blog post?

    Another question I have is, when I get permission to post something that’s been copyrighted, am I supposed to share it a certain way so others that I have permission to use? I typically just thank them somewhere in the post, but am now wondering if there is something more formal that I should be doing instead?

    Thanks again for helping educate others about this!

    Kind regards,

  9. Fair Use and Creative Commons are nice tools, but my understanding is that they only apply to public schools. Many teachers at private schools, universities, and especially private language institutes work at for-profit institutions where stricter regulations apply.

    In these institutions, how can we use images and video, if at all? Is it even okay to use YouTube videos in class? What about online articles? Is there a difference between a class of paying students and a training delivered to teachers?

    Advice on all that would be greatly appreciated.

    • Creative Commons licences allow anybody to use them for whatever purpose Nick, provided that they adhere to the terms stipulated in the licence. As long as you read the licence for any materials you intend to use and comply with it, there shouldn’t be a problem.

      If you want to use a Youtube video in class, watch it on a laptop, leave the browser window open, and switch to hibernate mode. The laptop will save a cached copy that you can watch when you get into class. Easy solution, and perfectly legal.

      Where fair use is concerned, my understanding is that same rules apply to both private and public educational establishments, Nick, although copyright law is complicated and may vary from country to country… In situations where you are using materials offline then fair use should apply, although where copyrighted content is uploaded to the Internet, the situation is different as the materials are being shared globally; not just with a staffroom or particular group of students!

  10. Excellent post, which I’m sure that many educators will find very useful – thanks!

    A couple more links to public domain and other resources for use in class that you might like to add:

    Morguefile – free stock photos for commercial and non-commercial use: (some restrictions, so check terms and conditions before using)

    Open Clipart Library – public domain clipart

  11. As a teacher I spend much of my time on the hunt for quality materials to use in my classrooms, which are on-line, in addition I write materials myself.
    Very often I find good material on the web that fits perfectly with my students requirements, but often I need to adapt them to use them in the class.
    I have always followed the “why re-invent the wheel” moto. However, now I am a little nervous as to what I can and can´t use. If I do use or adapt materials other than my own I always paste the source in the document, but it appears that maybe this is not sufficient.
    As I am sure any teacher will agree, we prefer to spend our time in the classroom rather than hunting for materials but as needs must for the sake of our students we accept this is a vital part of our profession, especially now with huge amounts of information available, we want our students to open their minds to a variety of different versions.
    It appears that we now not only have to spend the time creating our class materials but also we need to spend the time searching licenses to make sure we are able to use said materials. Can the onus not be placed on those who post these potential classroom materials, to make it clear who can and can´t or used for and not used for, surely this would be the least time consuming option.
    This is a very useful article and I am grateful you have bought my attention to it.

  12. howard errey says:

    Thanks for the update.
    For image search I always find useful and more attractive for Creative Commons search on Flickr.

  13. Troy Hicks says:

    While I understand the concern about using copyrighted materials on, I encourage you to become familiar with the work of Renee Hobbs and her team and the Media Education Lab on fair use provisions of US Copyright Law.

    While public domain and Creative Commons licenses are one way for educators and students to find “copyleft” or “copyright friendly” content for their digital projects, Hobbs makes the argument that we have wide latitude for “fair use” of copyrighted materials, so long as they are used in a transformative manner and in service of scholarship, commentary, and critique.

    Some resources to review:

    So long as educators and students are using copyrighted materials in transformative ways that add value to the content, not simply reproducing it and taking away from its commercial value, then we can and should exercise our fair use rights.

    • Sue Lyon-Jones says:

      Whether you buy into Renee Hobbs argument or not, there is an important caveat to fair use which often tends to be overlooked, which is that fair use rarely (if ever) applies to materials created for educational purposes. In other words, you can’t adapt a page from a coursebook, or upload a worksheet that someone else has written without permission, and claim fair use. In order for the fair use defence to apply, 1) the resulting work must be transformative enough to take it away from its original purpose, and 2) it must not interfere with the author’s right to earn a living from it, or potentially exploit the work for profit at a future date.

      On a more general note, I think it is important to bear in mind that fair use isn’t actually a right at all – it is merely a defence to a claim for copyright infringement. Ultimately, only the courts can decide whether something amounts to fair use, and I’m sure that most of us wouldn’t want to go there!

  14. Jeremy Roe says:

    This subject will be incredibly relevant to my future endeavors as a Social Studies teacher. My general philosophy as a future educator is to involve the students in constructive debate rather than spend the majority of the class time lecturing. Given that videos and images will be a vital conversation starters for my class discussions – the possibility of violating copyright restrictions concerns me. However, I agree with Troy Hicks – educators and the media have much more leeway in utilizing copyrights materials because our efforts do not have a profit motive. I was one of the millions of citizens that contacted my elected representatives in order to urge them to oppose the proposed legislation. For now, democracy prevailed.

  15. Amanda Ulyatt says:

    Thank you for providing such user friendly, reliable, time saving information about copyright and the internet. Brilliant effort :)

  16. Sue Lyon-Jones says:

    Hi again, Ronnie,

    Just stopping by again to let you know that I’ve blogged my own take on this in a guest post over on Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto’s Teaching Village, here:

    As someone who is both a teacher and a materials writer, I’d like to pick up on the suggestion made by one of your visitors that the onus should be placed on people who post potential classroom materials to spell out how they can and can’t be used, as I really don’t think we should be looking at things from that perspective.

    I run a very popular free lesson materials website which has a copyright notice and a link to our terms and conditions on every page, which spells out in detail what people can and can’t do with our materials. If people try to copy our pages, they get a pop up message politely asking them not to, and asking them to link to us instead if they find our lessons useful. You would think all this would be enough – particularly as our materials are 100% free and there is no need to copy them in order to use them – but apparently it’s not, as our lessons are scraped and plagiarised by teachers and uploaded to sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and school servers on a constant basis. In other words, spelling out how materials can and can’t be used doesn’t provide a solution to the problem.

    Having said all this, writers of educational materials really shouldn’t need to spell out what teachers can or can’t do with them, and my personal view is that it’s both selfish and disrespectful to suggest that the onus should be on them to do so. As a teacher myself, I appreciate that finding materials to use in the classroom can be hard work and time consuming, but a materials writer I put in a lot of hard work and effort creating free resources to make other teachers lives easier and save them time. Given this, I think it is a bit of an imposition to suggest that it’s my responsibility to ensure that people don’t steal or plagiarise materials I’ve written.

    It seems to me that default position should be that if you didn’t write it, then it is not yours to use in the absence of a notice that specifically states that you can use it; period – and if a page doesn’t say what you can or can’t do with the content, then you should have the manners to ask the person who created it if you can use it, in the same way you would do before taking and using anything else that didn’t belong to you.

  17. iq says:

    there is an option to display youtube thumbnails on websites.

    is it legal to use them for design of my web page for free?

  18. Darryl says:

    Is it legal to post video from news sources CNN,TMZ, ABC WORLD NEWS etc. to use for comedic purpose?

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      If you embed a video they host using their embed tools, then it should be no problem. Many news sources allow you to embed video anywhere.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      This is actually a really interesting question. Technically, I think it should be the earliest year of copyright so that should their be an argument, there is a record of when copyright started. However, many sites update it automatically each year as it makes the site look more current. As I understand it in the US, your writing is automatically “copyrighted” when you post it, regardless of a notice at the bottom of your blog or site. However, you can’t really enforce your copyright (in a court for example) unless you’ve registered your work with the US copyright office, and paid a fee to do so. Tricky stuff for sure.

  19. Bon says:

    Hi Ronnie. Thanks for the great info. I went to business school and a lot of what was taught was about copyright laws that didn’t pertain to the net. So I love what you have done here!

    I’m putting together a video as part of a business plan to show to prospective investors. This is a for profit venture. I want to compare two different websites on the video and how they function. As an example, I would compare yelp to citysearch. I would like to put their site on the video with me navigating through it describing the site and comparing it to the other, and then to the site I am building.

    The sites are public to use, but I would like to know if I can record myself using them for a private/profitable cause. I would be criticizing the sites in some ways.

    Let me know what you think, thanks Ronnie!

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Sorry for such a delay – I’m just seeing these last few comments here and will make sure my notifications are coming through as they should.

      To be honest, I’m not sure about this one. I would imagine that, especially since this is a for-profit venture, you’d need permission for the site owners to use their sites.

      I do know that we get weekly requests from people wanting to use screenshots of our homepage for research papers, books, etc. We almost always say yes :)

  20. Alfred Low says:

    I am trying to wrap my head around the copyright implications of showing a YouTube video to a class.

    If I load a YouTube video on my iPad and show it to a classroom, am I deemed to be broadcasting or displaying the video and therefore in violation of their Terms of Service 5B?

    If I get the embed code from YouTube and include it in my organisation’s intranet and get students to watch the video, this is permissable, correct?

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Alfred – It is my understanding that you can show a YouTube to your class, for educational purposes. It should fit within your curriculum. Especially if the movie is a clip of a larger work. Again, it is always safest to ask the copyright holders for permission, as much of a pain as that can be.

  21. Robert says:

    Ok Ronnie,
    Here is one for you; I can’t seem to find an answer fro this question even from my friend who is an attorney.
    Two scenarios
    1- Can I create an instructional videos using material from a book or a text book I purchased. The videos would be posted free on a website. The book would be given credit on the website as well as in the video, people watching would be encouraged to purchase the book.
    2- Every thing the same as above but would like sell the video as an educational/instructional material.

    What’s your thoughts
    Thank you,

  22. Ann says:

    What about learning management systems. If I put something on Moodle that is not open on the internet, is that the same as showing it to my class or distributing for educational use?

    If I put copyrighted music to a video of my own images and put the video on YouTube as private, therefore not distributed at all, is that any different than playing the song on a CD (in both cases paid for) in my classroom?

  23. Vivian Kirkfield says:

    Very helpful article…thanks so much. I have a dilemma which your last comment somewhat answered. I want to start a series of Google+ Hangouts on Air (HOA) which will stream live to YouTube. I plan to read a children’s picture book and do a related craft activity…the series is aimed at using the messages in picture books to help kids and parents with the challenges they face, like sibling rivalry and bullying. I do this program in local kindergartens and even wrote a book about it…but now I’m unsure as to whether I can read the entire story and show the pictures…or whether I should just show some of the pictures and tell about the story.
    From the answer above, it seems like I would have to get permission from the author if I wanted to read the entire book out loud. What are your thoughts?

  24. Copyright says:

    Nice post on fair use. In the modern world, Copyrights the most recognized and preferred law that assists most of us to protect our original assert without bothering its duplication. According to the legal bodies, it is the only perfect way to keep your data maintained and protected whether its online or published in some newspaper, book or any of the other way. I have also posted similar stuff here .

  25. Chuck says:

    I have a tough question. If a company sells a textbook, and provides accompanying materials with the textbook, can they dictate how I teach those materials, if everyone has purchased the copyrighted textbook from them.

    ie. Can a publisher say “you can only teach this class to students in your physical location, but you cannot teach them from my book via a live internet broadcast” even if the person on the other end has also purchased a physical copy of the work?

    I would assume that as long as every person learning from the content has purchased from the copyright holder, then it’s fair use.

  26. Thatcher Bohrman says:

    Hello, and thanks for continuing the conversation on this topic. I’d like to offer a correction and some answers to grey areas in your post:

    “showing a class full of students a video would be considered a “public performance” and would be against the law.”— Not true, and very different from a public performance. Your classroom is not open to the public, but to a specific set of enrolled students. Section 110 is the exemption specifically for a huge variety of classroom uses of copyrighted material, as long as use is in the course of mediated instructional activities.

    “If you can’t use images from the internet why is it that google can group all the images together for people to use?” — Because Google’s use (and it is definitely copying) is a transformative, original arrangement of information. A good example of copyrighted material being using in a non-infringing way, for a decidedly commercial purpose.

    “Can students read published books aloud, record themselves & publish recording on class blog? The answer to this is probably not :(” — A large portion of these issues come down to making content publicly available, and if student videos are private and available only to other students in their course, then this would favor a fair use, just as reading aloud in a classroom would be allowed. If we are living in a world where students in a class are prohibited from reading aloud from their books, then please kill me now.

    If anyone is interested in a facebook discussion about this topic, join our Fb group called Copyright Talk. Thanks.

  27. s says:

    hi ronnie,

    finally a clearly written article on this issue. thank you.

    re: the reading aloud of text: what if i read *my written summary* of a chapter of a book, or short work like an academic paper, and record a video of the reading aloud of my summary & post it on the internet? it is my interpretation & explanation of the original work, but it is the entirety of my video, usually only 2 to 5 minutes long. i give proper citation before reading, and link and type citation as well. shouldn’t this be enough, even if the original work says “all rights reserved…no part..may be reproduced, stored…or transmitted in any form or by any means…”? it is my interpretation, after all.

    thank you very much,

  28. Diego Rivera says:

    I am not sure if this was covered but i am a college student and i recently bought a textbook : “Children” by Santrock, John i want to scan the whole book because it is very big and it would be easier to have it on my laptop. And not carry it.I am only planning to use it for my own use.

  29. clare welsh says:

    I am a teacher- If I wanted to make a blog of children’s writing, what pemission would I need to obtain? Paretal presumably?? Any advice or experience greatly wecolme, thank you.

  30. Glenn Smith says:

    I’m not sure why you say “Any video on YouTube should be fine for showing in class”. What is your authority, please? YouTubes Terms of Service specifically say in paragraph 5b “You may access Content for your information and PERSONAL use …” (capitalization of “personal” added by me for emphasis. So, you can’t claim rights from YouTube. Are you claiming “Fair Use” permissions? If so, you need to significantly caveat your statement because that is not a blanket “Any video on YouTube” kind of application.

  31. meshell says:

    If I send in photos to be considered for a project, can those images be used without my permission or does sending them in count as my consent?

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      I think usually sending them in would count as your consent, but it would most likely depend on the terms and conditions of the project. They should make it clear when you submit or have a way for you to ask directly.

    • Thatcher Bohrman says:

      As usual, it depends. What are the terms of the project? A submission could imply consent but should also be explicitly expressed as part of the deal, and it should not in any way imply you are transferring ownership.

  32. Rahul Singh Thakur says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    Amazing blog. Just one qustion. Will it be legal to create caricature of movie or television stars and sell it for commercial purpose via posters, notebooks and other mediums?

  33. Anonymous says:


    I would like to know, can you use articles from different websites and upload it onto your site. The article and image would be referenced/hyperlinked to the original source. So the original source would be given full recognition.

    Is this legal?

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Legal or not, it isn’t a good idea. Being “legal” would depend on if the person gives you permission or not to re-post. But pasting content from somewhere else is bad for search engine rankings and bad for many other reasons. You’re better off writing a short post on your own with a summary and a link to the original content.

    • Sue Lyon-Jones says:

      Unless the person who wrote the articles has licensed it for re-use, then it isn’t legal, I’m afraid. Copying other people’s work without permission is copyright infringement, and giving recognition may not stop you getting into trouble over doing so – especially if you copy things written by people who make a living from writing.

      As Ronnie says, it is much better to write your own articles, or provide a short summary. Alternatively, you could copy articles from sources that do grant permission to re-use or adapt them, such as Wikipedia.

  34. [email protected] says:

    I have question and would appreciate if you could answer it. I am going to write the lyrics of the song ond ask them to listen to Youtube to fiil in the blanks but I will give a linkg from Youtube. Does this still need permission? Many thanks,

    • Thatcher Bohrman says:

      The thing you’re copying is the song lyrics, and if this is a scholarly use, among other factors, then you can make a fair use argument for doing so. Your student’s listening to YouTube is a non-issue.

  35. Karla says:

    Is it legal to post news clips from fox, cnn etc?

    Is it legal to post video montages or mash ups, of a bunch of different movie scenes from one movie or television show, mixed together with an overlaid music track? What if you don’t get permission for the music?

  36. Christie Marie says:


    I know this is an old post but I had a question regarding creating a video vlog. Say you are compiling news from different resources/stories & other tips in which you present the information in a video and even cite your sources either. Would this be o.k. or would you still need to get permission from the resources?

    Thanks for your help!

  37. Jenny says:

    Hello there,
    Very nice post. One question: if I found a pdf book and I don’t print it but refer my students to read it online where the pdf version is, would that be ok? What’s troubling me is the fact that I charge for this course, very litte, but still… I charge them. This book would be discussed throughout the course. I am really careful and respectful of these things but someone hinted that if it was on pdf in the internet I should be fine as long as we don’t print it or charge especifically for the book. Could you please clarify that for me? Thanks!

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Jenny

      I think you are fine as long as you link to the location of the PDF only. Where publishers have issues is when you upload the copyrighted content directly to your website.

  38. Simon says:

    Dear Ronnie Burt thank you for you article, as I found this interesting.

    I am still slightly confused. Please can you help me fully understand the Creative Commons license videos on you tube. Does this mean we can use some clips from the Creative Commons license videos? which I would like to add in my research videos I make.

    When I do the advanced search filter on YouTube, it shows me 100′s of videos, but nothing about Creative Commons license videos?
    Can I use video clips for research and education, to make a non profit video by using the FAIR USE NOTICE: without permission?


  39. Simon Williams says:

    Could a professor post a 1 min. clip excerpt from a commercial movie in a private university YouTube channel for an online course he is teaching? I would believe this would be fair use as it is for educational purposes, but the fact the students pay to access the content through the private university YouTube channel is what has made this issue murky. Here is my case for fair use and the context the prof uses the movie clip:

    1. Using copyright material for illustration or example
    2. Copying, reposting, and recirculating a work or part of a work for purposes of launching a discussion
    3. Also, in my personal opinion, posting this min. or so edited clip in a 40 min. lesson is in no way competing in the market place with the original work. If anything the excerpted clip is encouraging the viewers to rent/purchase the original copy much in the same way a trailer does online, in theaters, or on television.

    Am I missing something? Thank you for any comments/advice.

  40. Mele Stone says:

    I read the license info and couldn’t find any information about hyperlinks I’m needing.

    My question is: If you get your license completed and online (music), then decide to use a different link (not the once you used on the 1st license), will the Creative Commons page allow you to change/insert a new link where the old one was?

  41. Lauri Wakefield says:

    Great article! Using images from the web is definitely something to be careful with. I’ve used several images from Wikimedia on a few articles I’ve written recently. Some of the attrition text is very long, but I included it beneath the image. Do you know if you can just link to the page on Wikimedia instead of using all the attrition text? I tried to search for information but haven’t been able to find anything yet.

    Lauri Wakefield

  42. Zaproszenia Ślubne says:

    I guess the main problem are the photos found via Google Graphics.

  43. Georgia says:

    Thanks for all the great info. Trying to find out the legality of using just a few second clip of music (i.e. a single lyric) in a blog just for illustrative or informational purposes. If you are just using a piece of music, are their any different rules?

  44. Liz says:

    If I publish my book through a publisher, is it the publisher’s responsibility to get permission to use an author’s work?

  45. Colin Purrington says:

    For the part about Fair Use of text, I would add that in addition to providing the citation a teacher should use _always_ use quotation marks around copied/pasted text. It seems like an obvious thing, but a lot teachers don’t do that. It might be a generational thing … it’s mainly the younger teachers who plagiarize like this. They instantly claim Fair Use, which I now like to call the Fair Use Excuse.

  46. Cassandra says:

    I am curious if you do anything with copyright laws and music? I am trying to do an online dance class for profit and am trying to navigate the copyright laws with out having to spend money for the use of the songs…. any resources that would be helpful that you know of? Thank you!

  47. Studyn-us says:

    I am building a site around colleges and would like to use the images from college website. It may not be possible to contact each and every college but if I use the images of college and link to college website, is that not enough ?
    This is my site
    When talking about you tube, I do not think it is copyright infringement if you embed the youtube video on your site. Correct me if I am wrong.

  48. Thatcher says:

    If you would like a more comprehensive view of educational copyright issues, please see my video

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