Don't Be An Image Pirate, Matey!

by Joy Leichtfuss

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As teachers, most of us would never dream of plagiarizing someone else's written work. We don't burn copies of our favorite DVDs and give them to our friends. We cite our sources when we use other peoples' ideas. We understand the ethical and legal reasons to respect others' work. Yet many of us don't think twice about doing a Google image search, finding the perfect picture, saving it to our computers and then uploading it for our own use on brochures, websites, or for presentations. But copyright law extends beyond written work, movies, and music. Using someone else's images, or other intellectual property without their expressed permission is piracy.
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You don't really want to be a pirate, even if Jack Sparrow is your hero and you doodle a skull and cross bones every once in a while. Glorified movie piracy may seem like a fun adventure but pirates are not known for their longevity, heroism, or good hygiene. Trust me, you DON'T want to be a pirate! You know using someone else's images without permission is piracy, and you need to STOP doing it immediately. How to stop? Here are three simple ways to make sure you avoid image piracy.


Image piracy is just another form of plagiarism. Let this teacher and his class tell you about plagiarism (plagiarizzling). Warning: It is cute, but you will never get this 3 minutes of your life back and you might still be singing "Don't plagiarizzle" while you are cooking dinner tonight.
Don't Plagiarizzle - a rap song about plagiarism

Arrrrr! But Who Will Know If I'm A Pirate? And Who Will Care?

You will know. You should care.

Not only that, your students will know. Hold your students to a high standard of digital citizenship and teach them how to use images correctly. Hold yourself to the same high standard of digital citizenship. Once you get your sea legs in the Creative Commons realm, it doesn't take any more time than the Google image search you used to do.

But what if the original creator finds out? As a teacher at a small school with a small classroom you feel protected by your anonymity (and the educational Fair Use exemption). But does your theft of someone else's work constitute Fair Use? And even if it doesn't qualify as Fair Use, how could the creator ever find out you used their image on your PowerPoint or brochure? They probably won't. But what could happen to you if your piracy was found out? No, you won't dance the hempen jig or be subject to a keelhauling, but you could be prosecuted and fined! Images are protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and copyright infringements are subject to fines of $200 to $150,000 per infringement (plus court costs). Don't be bilged on your own anchor just to save a few minutes.


Because I care about you and I don't want you to be singing, "Don't Plagiarizzle" all day, I will leave you with this amazingly remixed and properly cited audio track.

Klaus Badelt

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl - He's a Pirate by Klaus Badelt


Image 1-"Pirate Flag" by Scott Vandehey. Creative Commons via

Image 2- "Anchor" by plbmak. CC via

Image 3-"Photographing the Photographer" by naixn. CC via

Image 4-"Creative Commons Poster" by Gwyneth Anne Bronwynn. CC via

Image 5-"Writing a Poem" by Kristina Alexanderson. CC via

Don't Plagiarizzle by Melvil Dewey via YouTube

SoundCloud Audio "He's a Pirate" by Klaus Badelt

Pirate vocabulary found at