A nit-picky, but important consideration for including multimedia (images, sound, video, animation) within your portfolio is copyright. Whenever you use material from someone else, no matter how worthwhile the purpose may be, you should factor in copyright issues. This is especially important for online material open to the public. Although no blog entry can give a complete overview of copyright advice for every situation, there are simple resources that can help.
Fair Use in the Classroom vs a Portfolio
A lot of instructors freely borrow material for classroom presentations assuming that Fair Use protects them. Fair Use does provide a certain level protection, but generally within the classroom or a password protected course space. Take the scenario of showing a video clip for example. Showing a movie in the classroom is considered legitimate Fair Use. Streaming it through a password protected system such as ANGEL is also accepted because of the TEACH Act. But uploading entire song file to your portfolio (vs using a YouTube embed) is much more problematic because 1) it is not necessarily for educational purposes and 2) anyone outside the classroom could access it. Your use may be non-profit, but you could potentially be depriving someone of revenue because someone is viewing your material for free instead of renting the video or buying the DVD.
The good news is that services such as YouTube, Flickr and Hulu are showing copyright holders the advantages of loosening control over copyrighted material. However if there is a dispute and you claim Fair Use, it may not be considered “valid” Fair Use until settled in court. In the meantime, you could be blocked from posting a particular file…
What Can I Do?
Although copyright can be about what not to do, there are actually plenty of good resources and strategies for using multimedia content.
Embedding a video clip from YouTube or other streaming service is acceptable. The same is true for an online slideshow or audio file with an embed tag. Many files are posted for promotional or educational purposes, and if there is a permissions issue, is is the responsibility of the person who posts that material…not yours.
Linking to an image, video or audio file on another site is acceptable, and you are not generally required to seek permission to link. If you see an image you like on another site and which is relevant to particular discussion, you can post a link on your page.
You can often find and use materials with a Creative Commons license. Most Creative Commons license allow you to use the material in a non-commercial setting (including classroom instruction and portfolios). However, most licenses require you to credit the source (and it’s the polite thing to do). The Media Commons service maintains an excellent list of resources with Creative Commons materials at http://mediacommons.psu.edu/freemedia
Items from the U.S. Government are often public domain. By federal law, material produced by the federal government (except for the Smithsonian Institution) is public domain. This includes space images from NASA, wildlife pictures and monuments from the National Park Service, historical images and recordings from the Library of Congress, food images from the USDA, medical images from the CDC and other informational images from various agencies.
Don’t forget Wikipedia Images and sound on the Wikipedia site are reviewed for legality. Most have clear descriptions of where they were obtained and how they can be used. They are a mix of Creative Commons, public domain and those citing “Fair Use”. Note though that Fair Use in one country may not match U.S. Fair Use, so read license before downloading.
Look for non-profit repositories on your topic. Different institutions and individuals are creating repositories for non-commercial use on different topics. A personal favorite of mine is the Perry Castañeda Library Map collection out of the University of Texas.
Using the resources above, it’s likely that you will be able to find something that could help you in the classroom or your portfolio. The ultimate benefit is that if you find resources with valid licenses, you will have much more flexibility in being able to distribute material either on the portfolio or in a research publication.
Want to Learn More?
There are lots of excellent copyright resources at Penn State and elsewhere:
- Media Commons Free Media Resources – points you to a variety of legal media outlets
- Copyright Perspectives
- EMS Dutton e-Education Institute Copyright Information
- Penn State ITS Copyright Resources
- UCLA Intellectual Property Tutorial