Intellectual Property – Is It Yours or Mine?

This is a bit of — not exactly sure what to call this — would like to call it a breath of fresh air, but it’s going to be somewhat closer to a reference page rather than the research reviews I usually do. While it happens to be the bane of my existence, since I work with so many different types of media, properly citing my sources is something I work very hard to get right. However, I have the same attitude about citing sources that I take about doing my taxes; I do my conscientious best, but I know in my heart they’re totally screwed up anyway.

What I want to make clear is that just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s yours, and if you put an uncited photo in your Power Point presentation that’s exactly what you’re saying. It makes me quite crazy when I see a professor doing presentations without citing their photos. I’m sure you see this all the time because I do too.

After much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, I think I have some information about citing sources that is correct. If I don’t, for the love of all that is good and holy, please post a comment because I want to get this right. (Elvis voice) Thank you, thank you very much.

Before all else, try to identify what rights the media you are using has. You will see different types of rights and here are a few. But here’s a tip that is right every single time; always cite it – no matter what. This will solve all your problems about whether you need to cite it. You almost always do anyway.

Public Domain. You don’t need to cite it! Unless it’s a written work, then you do. (Legally you do not, but your professor or editor may see things otherwise). You don’t want to represent it as your own, which would be plagiarism. I don’t cite the photos I use that are in the public domain, and I think I’m ok there. Unless I said to my art instructor, “Here is my portfolio of beautiful pictures” that would be just plain wrong.

Fair Use. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a time minimum for music or videos you use in the classroom. This is more about your intended use of the media. If you’re showing a movie from the school library about the subject you’re working on with your students, ok. Supposedly, media has to be directly related to something being studied, and you can not just show a movie because you feel like it even if it’s from the library at your school. (Seriously, though I doubt anyone is gonna come get you on this one. Use your judgment here.) And don’t bring it from home either.


Creative Commons has purportedly been created to make using other people’s works easier. In my opinion though, it’s added one more layer to the confusion. However, it does seem to open up more options for using media that is not your own. Creative Commons has licenses that the owners of the work have given it. There are several different kinds, which tell you how you can use the work.

As a gift to you, I will soon add a list of resources to my site on intellectual property. There will also be an upcoming post about how to cite these things. This is a brief introduction, which just touches on the very basics. It’s a complicated issue that I wish I had a better understanding of myself. Feel free to add to the conversation.

Some things to think on:

  1. Do you have a clear idea of how to cite a photo?
  2. Do you know how to cite a video if you need to?
  3. How often do you use materials in your class that are not from the school library?

Tools I used:

Pixaby for the photos.


Frieden, J. A. (n.d.). Teach with Movies: ISSUES OF U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW RELATING TO THE USE OF MOVIES IN THE CLASSROOM. [Web log]. Retrieved from

Stim, R. (n.d.). Copyright & Fair Use Stanford University Libraries: Public Domain Trouble Spots. [Web log]. Retrieved from:

Again, thanks to Mark.

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