Copyright…Scratching my head and confused!

I was very excited to finally have all of my Copyright questions and confusions straightened out. 

I made this in Pic Collage. Does the watermark mean that they own it or do I?

When I was teaching Web design in Canada I generally encouraged my students to create their own graphic content. For some this was an easy and natural thing to do. For others, not so much. I introduced them to Morguefile, a website for free stock images that they could use directly on the web pages that they created or edit in Photoshop. I really didn’t know much about copyright. From what I read I had a basic understanding of what they could use it for. The rights for a random photo that I selected is posted below.

morguefile rights
Screen Shot – visit Morguefile About for more information on use of site images.

This brings me to my first question. Can I just take a screenshot of a webpage and add it to my blog? Is this an example of fair use? I am taking a small portion of something and using it in a different way. It is for educational use and I am not making any profit for it. Am I really understanding this correctly? Time to hit the flowchart. Wow, that’s a pretty extensive flowchart. Extremely detailed and educational but I am still not sure if I can just grab part of a webpage and add it to my blog.

I turned my attention to this video from Common Sense Media. I feel like my use is okay after watching the video but I am still not too sure.

YouTube Preview Image


Photo Credit: Andrew White

My students mentioned that another teacher (who taught graphic arts) told them that they could use any image as long as they changed it by 10%. I couldn’t imagine how you could possibly calculate what a 10% change looks like. I asked the teacher and he couldn’t really explain it to me in a way that I could understand. My policy remained that same, all images had to be created by the student or from a site like Morguefile that gave rights to use images. I was still pretty clueless about copyright.


I am starting to think that maybe I should just practice what I preach. Maybe I should make my own images? So I began to try to put together some images that I thought would suit the themes and ideas for this blog post. It certainly was a lot more efficient when I just googled and grabbed! Recently when I wanted to perk up my classroom blog I would just use a keyword search in Google and add it. No fuss, no muss. But I want to be an ethical global citizen and internet user. So I had to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I found this image in Morguefile. The photo comes from Seeka. Attribution was not required but I think it is deserved. I added the thought bubbles, copyright symbol and question mark.

Wow, this is tough. I have to think about a concept and see if I can get it to work. I also don’t always know how to make the software do the things i want it to do. I have to come up with an idea and execute it. That is pretty time consuming. I could use Compfight. We just learned about this lovely little resource and how to properly give credit. One thing I notice though is that the best images are on the top teasing me by telling me that I can purchase them for about a buck. They make the images that are truly free look pretty shoddy. What does the image shown below have to do with confusion anyway? Getting the right image can really be a matter of a needle in a haystack.

Photo Credit: psycoewok via Compfight cc

What about Google? Surely Google has a way to search images that are within the creative commons or public domain and available for me to use? So I took a look and here is what I found. This is not necessarily the language that I have been reading about. I am not sure exactly what these things mean. How can I be certain that these images are actually okay for me to use?

My Google Search Screenshot

What about my students? Teaching copyright is difficult in Saudi Arabia. I don’t feel that intellectual property rights are really taken very seriously here. I have been to a coffee shop that looked and felt exactly like Starbucks but it wasn’t. There is a chain of toy stores that had the same color scheme as Toys ‘R’ Us. My Arabic is pretty bad but I am sure it doesn’t translate into Toys ‘R’ Us. It also isn’t quite like the real Toys ‘R’ Us locations that I have visited in Riyadh. There are no real movie theatres in the Kingdom. We do have one on our compound. I am pretty sure that the compound management is not too concerned with paying royalties to the producers and creators of the movies that we show. The movies that are shown are likely bootleg copies or downloaded from the internet. Ignoring copyright seems to be a way of life here even though there are copyright laws. Copyright might be a tough sell for my kids.

I think my students would get the most information from the Fair(y) Use Tale. I certainly got a lot from it and I think it would capture the attention of my students. As I stated above trying to get my students to adopt a respect for copyright and intellectual property will be an uphill battle but this video would certainly get us talking about it.

YouTube Preview Image

In the meantime I will scratch my head a little less and make an effort to use images within the confines of fair use…or just make my own!




3 thoughts on “Copyright…Scratching my head and confused!

  1. Hi Andrew… I am also quite uncomfortable with defining copyright.

    I understand that we should be attributing credit where credit is due and I get the idea of the Creative Commons licensing, but your comment about taking a screenshot made me think if I was being “fair”.

    In my mind, yes, I am because I am screenshotting (yes, this is a word) the site because I am directly discussing it. I like back to it when clicked and cite the source URL as a caption. Overkill? No. This is a simple step, that does the job of giving credit. But, legally, could I be in some sort of grey area? Living in the KSA, maybe not… elsewhere? unsure.

    I agree with your comment about Compfight… those tempting images at the top are quite lovely. I actually started using Pixabay since it seems to have more options… and I just used the HTML coding from Compfight to re-set the caption of images to provide a link back to Pixabay or whatever attribution is needed.

    The Google image search is a more powerful one, yet doesn’t seem to yield interesting results when using the “Labeled for noncommercial reuse”. I see more relevant and specific search results on Pixabay or Compfight. Plus, those are already attributed nicely rather than drilling down to cite the source through Google.

    As far as making my own images, I am no digital artist… nor am I a photographer. It’s almost like any image that I might want for my blog has already been created by somebody. That reminds me of the controversial Dylan quote that is something about there is “no need for any more songs in this world” as they a have all been written.

    The question remains: Can I sing any song or post any image as long as I give credit?

    This comment is copyright… but you can use it… if you ask nicely.

    1. In reply to Craig’s comment …..
      Just because you gave the “song” or “image” credit doesn’t mean that you have permission to use it.
      Confusing I know!
      You still have to have permission to use something that isn’t yours. We encourage CC (creative commons) because the creator has “given permission already” and usually (not always though) expects credit (attribution) in return. Giving attribution even when it’s not required is good internet etiquette and good practise to do.
      If it’s not CC – then you don’t know if you have permission – so you have to ask. Just giving credit doesn’t absolve you from getting permission to use someone’s work.

  2. Andrew-
    Clear as Mud!
    I love reading articles where people are as confused as me. I know that isn’t reassuring for you, or Craig, but it is for me. I felt that the more I read on this topic, the more confused I became. I am down to the ‘if I make it, then I know it is okay’. Now, if I could just be that artistic person with the know how of putting together thought provoking and insightful images that capture the mind and instill wonder and form into the visual. Not happening.

    I am thankful that you and Craig giving me more ideas for sites to go to for Creative Commons images. Morguefile and Pixabay are excellent additions to the Compfight site. From your screenshot on your Google search, I was also able to see the buttons I need to click for finding copyright information. I am trying to find out what each of the phrases mean in their pull down menu.

    So, even though you may be frustrated with complicated, unclear, or fuzzy information regarding copyright on the web, please know that you did help me out. And isn’t that what it is all about?


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