Copyright awareness

Working through the unpublished draft student blogs in Whiteknights biodiversity with Jonathan Mitchley this morning we found that 75% of the students used images that were either other people’s copyright, did not have sufficient associated labelling to know whether use was permitted, or did not acknowledge the source following the requirments of the supplier. Even images from wikimedia images were not generally cited following the instructions on the source web page.

When introducing the blogging session the students were warned clearly that the blogs were intended for publication and that images must be used with appropriate permissions. Even for a group at MSc level it seems that understanding of copyright and acknowledgment of other people’s work is not embedded in their thinking. Digital media make copying very easy and this widespread gap in digital literacy among a group of students with diverse backgrounds shows this has not been addressed at undergraduate level among a range of UK universities.

It is now very easy to publish on the web and just as easy to breach copyright. Perhaps we need a student version of the ‘Know your rights: a guide to using images and multimedia’ course?

About Alastair Culham

A professional botanist and biologist with an interest in promoting biological knowledge and awareness to all.
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8 Responses to Copyright awareness

  1. Perhaps the students should be gently reminded that there are plenty of high-quality, public domain images available online. Sites like Flickr can be a fantastic resource for blog images. Along with other free “stock image” sites like (Stock Exchange)

  2. I tend to direct students to Wikimedia Commons as the best source of shared images that are free to use. Flickr and generally do not offer free to use images but have fees for use of the images. A quick trawl through some images on those two sites both offered licensing via Getty images at fees varying from ca £7 to over £100 for image use.

  3. Luke Micallef says:

    It would be interesting to find out whether this is a generational attitude towards digital content, or simply a lack of awareness among the students. There is in fact a resource on the University website that covers finding, editing and using digital images, as well as addressing copyright issues here: it might be a little bit out of date now as it doesn’t currently have an ‘owner’ as far as I’m aware, but I think the Library are acting as caretakers for the time being (I may be wrong on this!).

  4. Leigh Blount says:

    On a similar theme around copyright and potentially becoming a digital outlaw, here is quite a fun quiz to determine whether your going to be OK or potentially an online Billy the Kid!

    Needless to say I was beyond reproach

  5. The quiz is interesting and challenging – I scored 80% and was fine on the limited number of questions about images – my weakness was in being over cautious about what might count as defamation or libel.

  6. Libby Graham says:

    Many thanks Leigh for that link – a really interesting quiz and very effective at raising the issues. I got 85% – my weakness was being over cautious in some of the areas – assuming things were illegal when they were not – an interesting thing for me to reflect upon.

  7. patparslow says:

    I was intrigued by the digitaloutlaw quiz – if you look at a number of the things which are marked as though you should be saying they are illegal, in the explanatory notes it is quite clear that they are not, in fact, illegal – at least not as a general case, but might cause you problems if someone takes offence. It’s handy, but I think and accurate one might be handier still!

  8. Well, I don’t mind running a session for students on blogger awareness? I do blog about issues around images and copyright and talk to student groups such as RUSU student media and the photography society about copyright and other relevant legal issues. I’d be happy to help out!

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