Category: Creative Commons

Searching copyright

Recently, the Council of Ministers of Education released a “Decision Tool” to help educators understand the legalities surrounding copyright of materials in Canada as they apply to education.

The Decision Tool is located here –

Screenshot 2017-12-11 at 15.16.08

Navigation is dead simple.

Click a type of published work flies out more information.  You continue to drill down until you get your answer.

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If you’re looking for a quick and easy reference to check your use of a particular piece, you’ll find this tool helpful.  Since we’re all so connected these days, this piece dealing with Internet resources is good reading.

The site acknowledges the original work from the University of Ottawa’s Fair Dealing Decision Tree.

This seems to be a good place to add a reminder about this blog and how the content is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License

doug – off the record by Doug Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.


I got a zero once

True story.

If memory serves me correctly, it was when I was in Grade 5 or 6.  We had to write a short story and so I wrote one about vampires.  I doubt that it was a topic in class so I can only guess that I was influenced by other media like the local library or television – Edgar Allen Poe, the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, or anything with Bela Legosi in it.

The story had something to do with a grave yard, mushrooms, vampires, and who knows what else.  I’ll swear on this cup of coffee that is was original work.  But, somehow my teacher didn’t think so and claimed that I had copied it from somewhere.  (probably because it was so good?)  Anyway, this was back in the days when you didn’t hire a lawyer and demand proof.  It went straight to my parents and I was guilty.

It was my first blush seriously with copyright and I remember it well.  All this walk along memory lane comes from thinking about Helen DeWaard’s post about copyright.  It’s worth reading and considering.  The big message for me from that post was her advice to copyright everything.  Maybe I should have copyrighted that assignment I handed in!

Yesterday, I mused about some of the reasons why you and students should put a form of copyright on everything that you do.  I supposed that it could apply to any work but I think that the obvious place would be to put it on anything that you do on the web.  If nothing else, and it’s done seriously, it’s a badge to the world that your words are indeed original.

It brought to mind a few topics around this.

First, if you follow Alec Couros, you know that he has a huge concern about people using his image for other reasons than to point back to him.  His stories about finding it in various places is downright scary.  It led me to an interview on this blog with a friend of his.  An Interview with Zuck Markyburg.

Those of you who attended the Bring IT, Together Conference a few years ago will undoubtedly remember keynote speaker Richard Byrne.  Richard and I had found ourselves in strange places together and my conversations with him convinced me that he would be a good keynote speaker.  He was and you should follow his blog Free Technology for Teachers.  But, “free” doesn’t mean take it and abuse it.  Richard actively goes after people that reuse his works.  He’s written many times about copyright.

If you think purple and Google at the same time, chances are, you think Alice Keeler.  Her site is all about Google and she shares all that she knows on posts there.  With all of the work (and screen captures) that goes into her efforts, she wants to protect her intellectual property as well.  She uses a service Digiprove to guard things.

I could continue but I think you get the point.  It’s not just a silly academic thing.  It’s serious stuff and these leaders are serious about protecting their works.

Shouldn’t you?

Shouldn’t your students?

Copyright thinking

Helen DeWaard was good enough to drop by the blog on Friday and toss in a comment about my thoughts on her blog post.

Thanks for answering the questions, Doug. It’s something I think we (educators) should consider as we share our skills, talents, ideas and meandering professional practices in blogs, tweets, snapchats or instagrams! Put a CC license on creative works as a default setting, even if it’s just that one more bit of work before you publish or post. Teaching our students as we lead by example will help them also consider copyright and sharing in digital spaces. It’s part of moving students from citizenship to leadership that Jennifer Casa-Todd writes about.
I’m sure there will be a future blog post that dips further into the fair dealing conversation you’re looking for – it’s a common thread in Creative Commons conversations as well.

There was sentence in all that that had me thinking over the weekend.

Put a CC license on creative works as a default setting, even if it’s just that one more bit of work before you publish or post.

I don’t do that.  Instead, I’ve opted for the easy (coward’s?) way out.

You actually have to navigate to the “About” page on this blog to see how I have applied copyright to my creations.


I remember creating this very vividly.  It had five important points for me:

  1. it allows me to write about whatever I want, whenever I want, and the license to be inconsistent and “off the record”.  In other words, don’t fact check me because I may change my perspective over time;
  2. it gives an indication to people about how I would expect that people would treat my efforts.  I spend a great deal of time reading the Creative Commons options at the time and chose this one;
  3. it allows me to demonstrate how Creative Commons could be used to place a licensing on work;
  4. it gives me the chance to show others that I value what I do enough to put a license on it.  I think everyone, including students who create content should do so’
  5. it’s applied once on the blog and covers all the content.  I deliberately did it that way to avoid having the statement “in your face” at every turn.

But her statement got me thinking.  Does the fact that I lazily put a blanket statement on just the one page actually make the effort useless?

Answer this question – have you ever checked out my about page?  I would suspect most people, except for the morbidly curious, haven’t.

And, if you haven’t, you won’t have read the license part unless you had stumbled on it with one of my posts talking about licensing.

What makes this even more worth pondering was the inclusion of Deborah McCallum’s post about the MathPod in the same post of mine.  Deborah takes a different approach.  If you read to the bottom of her posts, you’ll see that she applies a full copyright to every post.  To this observer, she obviously takes great pride and places value on her work.  By not doing so, do I value my work less?

There’s also the digital thing.  Many people think of digital has having less copyrightable value than traditional media i.e. books, just because it’s more easily exploited and anyone can create it.

Getting back to Helen’s point – should a blogger or other digital creating type of person take that extra moment to apply their copyright statement to each and every piece of media they create?  Does that carry more importance than one blanket statement on the blog, wiki, website, etc. where it’s hosted?

I’d be interested in your thoughts.  I see myself coming down solidly on both sides of the fence on this one.

Doing it right – never too early

It’s never too early to do the right thing.  As students start to produce digital documents for class, there’s always a desire to dress it up with graphics and images.

I’m still a big proponent of having students create their own, whether by their own digital camera or via a drawing program.  That adds so much to the process.

In the early days, clipart use was pretty clear.  You bought it or a number of pieces showed up within the program that you were using.  I was on the OSAPAC Committee when we licensed a collection for all schools with classroom friendly pieces of clipart – we called it the Canadian Clipart Collection.  The committee also reached out to the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada to license high resolution images of Canadian money – we called that the Canadian Currency Collection.  A link to it is no longer on the OSAPAC website but you can be sure that I blogged about it here.  It was helpful to have licensed images because so many products include US currency as the only option.

Like most things, time and technology moves on and things can often be simpler.  Now that so many things are done inside a browser, it’s quite easy to right click and copy an image and then head to the document in process and paste it.  But, do you have the legal right to do so?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Big search engines allow you to easily search for images.  But, it’s important to know that the results only point to the images as they are hosted elsewhere.  It’s really up to the person doing the copying and pasting to make sure that they have the legal right to use them in their personal documents.  Teachers need to seize this as a teachable moment to talk about public domain, copyrighted, and then the whole area of Creative Commons.  Creative Commons isn’t a thing but a number of different ways that people protect their creations.  You need to understand it before using it and, in particular, the tough way of attributing the original image.  Much has been written, including on this blog, about this.

A way to get started is with Photos for Class.  The service will search Flickr (a repository for images) for images that you want, respecting the license.  So, if I’m interested in “puppies”, I can do a simple search and there’s an incredible collection of puppies that come back.  Now, I have two problems.  1)  Which one to use?  2)  How do I attribute it properly.  Neither the website nor I can help you with the first problem.  But, Photos for Class really helps out with the 2nd problem.  When you download the image, it attaches the proper attribution to the image.  Check out these adorable pups.


OK, enough puppy gazing.  Look at how the image is properly attributed.

You can’t beat doing the right thing.  Of course, there may a time when you want an image that’s not found at Photos for Class.

That’s when you really dig into proper licensing and attributions.

Can I?

Use this in my classroom?

Copyright is something that everyone needs to know about.

If I find it on Google, does that mean I can use it?  The immediate answer should be “not necessarily”.  You need to know…

… about copyright in the Canadian context.  How many times do you hear people talk about “fair use”.  Do they really understand that that isn’t a Canadian legal term for the use of other’s materials?  Just ask them what “fair dealing” is and you have a great conversation starter.

Then, send them to this terrific website from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.

It’s designed to let you drill down with exactly the type of content that you wish to use.

But don’t just stop at the tool.  From pull down menus, you’ll find all kinds of original resources.  In particular, this presentation (in PDF format) really digs deeply into the concepts.

Knowing how different types of media may be used is very important and this is a topic all need to address.  In terms of students, they need to know where they stand as well.  I’ve always maintained that they should create their own content where possible.  As we all know, there are alternatives when that isn’t possible.

Most producers of content will show their expectations with respect to copyright wherever possible.

This blog?

You can find the details on my About page.



Yesterday, Larry Ferlazzo shared a post “The “All-Time” Best Sources Of Online Images“.  

Bloggers, designers, teachers, well any content creators are always looking for the best of images to enhance whatever it is that they’re creating.  

I’ve always been a supporter and advocate for creating your own.  I’ve led more Photoshop, Gimp, CorelDRAW! and web based tools workshops than I care to admit.  When you’re doing computer referenced things, it’s important to know how to capture all or part of your screen and even edit in your capture tool or bring it into your favourite image editor.  Now that everyone packs a camera, it’s also helpful to take seemingly random pictures even if you have no immediate plans to use them.

As an example, here’s a sunset picture from the other night looking to the west from the driveway.  By itself, there’s a great contrast of colours but all kinds of distractors like the utility lines and the driveway but I could edit them out should I decide to do something with it.  

As an aside, if it hadn’t been so hot and humid, I would have walked to the end of the driveway to get a better picture.

If you look in the header here, you’ll see an image taken from the same direction.  It’s one that I’ve always thought as one of my best and the reason why you’ll probably see an orange theme on this blog for a while.

Anyway, ….

When working with students, I think that it’s extremely important to start that way.  Have them take, create, and use their own compositions with whatever tools that you have available.  That establishes nicely the concept of ownership of the images.  It nicely opens the door to talk about copyright.  Is it OK for the teacher to just take everyone’s creation and put them on a shared drive or wiki open to the class, or indeed the entire school to use as they see fit?

Of course, the discussion will inevitably evolve into the concept of copyright and then into Creative Commons usage.

All of this is good stuff and worthy of repeating often throughout the school year.  It’s such an important concept and your teacher-librarian will be there with help and resources.

But, there are times when you can’t create your own.  

I would suggest that then, and only then, students should dive into big lists like Larry’s.  The actual collection of his image links can be found here.  I’d be bookmarking that.

I found it interesting to go up and down his list.  There are so many good references there.  There were some I’ve seen before and others have been added to my burgeoning to-do list for later discovery.

There are a couple of resources that I’ve used that didn’t make the formal list.

Compfight – Rodd Lucier introduced me to this resource that scours Flickr looking for images.  Of course, you can just do the searching through Flickr itself but oddly, I seem to have better results with this.

Morguefile – I don’t recall how I found this but it is mentioned, in passing, in Larry’s list.  I do know that I was intrigued because of the link to old newspapers found in Morgue Files.  It was always a favourite place for crime-fighting detectives to go in old novels so why not the digital equivalent today?  It’s one of the first places I look when I can’t create it myself.

The important thing to remember in all of this is attribution to resources that students use.  This blog uses this Creative Commons license which I think is fair to education.  I’ve mentioned many times, and I think it’s worth repeating especially in these days of making and creating, it’s most important than ever for students to understand that they own what they creative and should think about how others might elect to use their creations.

Your thoughts?  If you don’t have it or can’t create it, what’s your go-to service?

Maps, Oh My!

I was originally going to call this “Nostalgia Finds Maps” and that would have been good too.  The bottom line, this was a personal exercise in inquiry that took me to a place I didn’t know existed – and I’m so glad it did.  Like most people, I suspect, Google Maps is the place to be to map things out.  Seconds and thirds might take me to Bing Maps or Mapquest but now….

I logged onto Facebook this morning and a friend had shared this beautiful picture of the square in Goderich, Ontario, close to my childhood home.  The picture is from “Your Life in Stills Photography“, a Goderich photography service.  To respect their work, this is just a clip of the original picture that begs the question “Why do they call it a square?”  Follow this link for the original image.  This, and many of the images from Your Life are incredible.  The Square was a favourite destination in my youth, only it was filled with trees.

As I was poking around, I saw that the image was also shared on the Ontario’s West Coast Facebook page.  Now, when you grow up away from Lake Huron, you think of the West Coast as Kincardine, Goderich, Bayfield, Grand Bend, …  All were popular day trip destinations in Huron and surrounding counties, but there’s more.  “Favourite Five Stops on Day Trip Through Huron County“.

I continue to post around and notice that Walton is listed as part of the West Coast.  I was surprised since it was further inland.  My memories of Walton is of a little village part of the amazing softball community. The Wikipedia lists it as a population of 96 so, even with rounding errors, it’s still on the small size.  So, I’m reading the article, remembering great times and I notice the map section, with the latitude and longitude.  (43.67784°N 81.30168°WIt’s actually a link so I give it a click.

Holy gold mine.

I end up on a site called GeoHack, really new to me and part of the Wikimedia Tool Labs

And look at what we find.

Obviously, it would be presumptuous to label this as every mapping service ever but I suspect you’ll have blisters on your mouse clicking finger before you’re done exploring them all.

And, Canadian resources…

And this is the beginning.  Discover everywhere in The Wikipedia that has made reference to this location as well so many other resources like Geocaching, Planet Spotter, …