Copyright, Copyleft and Creative Commons

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The most important information first:

It’s not legal to post other peoples’ copyrighted images (or other copyrighted material) on your blog. You are strongly encouraged to use images you have created yourself, or those licensed with a Creative Commons license (see below). If you really want to post a copyrighted image, please seek permission from the author, state in your post that you have been given permission, and cite the original author and source.

The legal grey area. In copyright law there is an area called Fair Dealing, which says that copyrighted material can be used in a number of ways without infringing the copyright. Of particular interest here is the area of Research and Private Study:

“Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes does not infringe any copyright in the work as long as an appropriate acknowledgement is also included.” (Copyright – An Overview)

It might be argued therefore that posting an image in a blog post is Fair Dealing if it is clearly included for research purposes, and an acknowledgement is given. However, a blog post cannot easily be legitimately considered as private study if it is published for all to see. A safer option would be to password protect the blog post so that it is not publicly available.  In any case, you are absolutely required to cite the original author and source when posting any copyrighted material. Anyone not meeting this requirement might be asked by the site administrator to remove the copyrighted material. Please note, even when you do this, you may still be breaking the law if you don’t have permission to post the material.

Resources follow – these will be updated over time.


Copyright is an automatic right afforded to creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works meaning they do not have to register the work for it to be protected. Copyright gives the creators exclusive rights over the exploitation of their work.

JISC – Copyright – An Overview
Introducing Copyright – downloadable booklet


The following definition of copyleft is taken from the GNU Project. While it refers primarily to software, the concept is equally applicable to other media as well, such as images, audio, video and text.

Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.

The simplest way to make a program free software is to put it in the public domain, uncopyrighted. This allows people to share the program and their improvements, if they are so minded. But it also allows uncooperative people to convert the program into proprietary software. They can make changes, many or few, and distribute the result as a proprietary product. People who receive the program in that modified form do not have the freedom that the original author gave them; the middleman has stripped it away.

In the GNU project, our aim is to give all users the freedom to redistribute and change GNU software. If middlemen could strip off the freedom, we might have many users, but those users would not have freedom. So instead of putting GNU software in the public domain, we “copyleft” it. Copyleft says that anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along the freedom to further copy and change it. Copyleft guarantees that every user has freedom.”

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization which works to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright and the public domain. From all rights reserved to no rights reserved. Their licenses help you keep your copyright while allowing certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.

About Creative Commons
Creative Commons licenses information
Creative Commons Videos

Creative Commons image search, Flickr
Compfight – another Creative Commons image search tool for Flickr

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