Digital Images

What's Legal, What's Fair, and How to Tell the Difference


High school students are certainly under the impression that if it's on the Internet, it's free and it's true.

Teaching kids how to research on the Internet is one of the hardest things to do, precisely because of students' belief that the Internet has everything they need (which it does), and that everything is truthful (which it isn't).

The research unit begins with an overview of understanding Copyright, Fair Use, & Public Domain since this is the lesson that establishes the precedent that a person can't take things from the Internet just because they're there.

If there's confusion about the difference among the three terms, don't feel alone. Copyright is the law that protects the works of authors, artists, and composers from having their work copied without permission. Fair use allows the use of a limited amount of copyrighted material for educational purposes as long as the user uses only a small part of it and doesn't use the material for profit. Finally, works that are part of the public domain aren't copyrighted and can be used without permission, although credit should be given.

Frontload of Knowledge

Copyright and Fair Use Animation

Hands-On Activity

New Information

Fair Use

Fair Use Quiz


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For a student or teacher to claim fair use of copyrighted material based on transformativeness, the nature of the intended work must be analyzed.

Use these questions to analyze the material:

  • Does the new work add value?
  • Has the new work been repurposed?
  • Has the new work created a new audience?
  • Is there a new expression, new meaning, or new message in the new work?

What has the student done with the copyrighted material? Has the student TRANSFORMED the original work or simply COPIED and PASTED? Copying and pasting do not transform.

"Transformativeness" then builds upon, modifies, and reworks the original content.

Creative Commons

final product

Find and "transform" an image. Provide appropriate CC attribution to your created image. Follow the example. Airdrop your final product to me.

  1. Explore Flickr Creative Commons Share-Alike or Creative Commons Search and find an image.
  2. Using PicMonkey or Ribbet, play with auto adjust, special effects, touch-ups, frames, shapes, textures, & text! You can edit for free by uploading an image, no need to create an account. Save your new creation to your computer.
  3. Provide appropriate CC Attribution to the created image. Look at this example. On the example below, note the CC attribution.
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