#LS2011 Session Recap: Keepin’ It Legal by Michelle Lentz


Michelle Lentz (@michellelentz) of Write Technology presented a session titled Keepin’ It Legal: Free Stuff on the Web to Spice up Your Learning. (#LS2011 #FB203)

The discussion focused on Creative Commons (CC), fair use and copyrighted material in learning (and anything else).

Quick Notes

  • When is your work copyrighted? As soon as it is created.
  • Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.
  • Creative Commons works in conjunction with copyright. Basically, the licenses allow you to specify how and when people can use your content.
  • Copyright.gov is a good, user-friendly site.
  • Teachingcopyright.org is instructionally sound and geared towards kids, so you can get the info quickly.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons has six types of licenses: three core licenses, each of which has an additional Non-Commercial Use version. All require attribution in some form.

Important note: if you change your license, anyone who used your content before you changed it can legally use it per the license that existed when they used it.

Three core licenses:

  1. Attribution (BY): You can modify and use freely, as long as you give attribution to the original.
  2. Attribution-NoDerivs (BY-ND): You cannot modify, but you can use freely in original format, as long as you give attribution.
  3. Attribution-ShareALike (BY-SA): You can modify as long as you give attribution and license under identical terms.

The other three are each of the above licenses + non-commercial: basically, you are not allowed to use it if you will make money off it.

When Can Non-commercial Be Used?

This is a common question as it relates to internal training. Technically it’s use cannot PRIMARILY be intended for profit. This is a large gray area.

The safe answer, and the one Michelle and I both recommend, is to ALWAYS ask permission. Most content owners are okay with it as long as you offer attribution.

Finding Content

In the second half of her presentation, Michelle covered several resources for searching for commercial-use Creative Commons content:

  • CreativeCommons.org has a great search engine. You can search for commercial-use with modification. You can use all of the returned content, as long as you give attribution. This makes it easy for you to keep it legal! The CC engine scours Google, Flickr, blip.tv, and other sites for available media: images, graphics, videos, and music, all in one place.
  • When using Flickr, the CC licenses are clearly marked. If you use Flickr’s site directly, use the Advanced search and check the boxes for the type of content you need.

How Do You Give Attribution?

In a presentation, you can give attribution directly on the slide, or at the end (bibliography-style). The two requirements are a link to the source and a link to the CC license it uses. Do this for every piece of content you use.

If you use bibliography-style attribution at the end end, you must reference the page or slide on which the content appears.

Additional Information and Resources

  • The Commons on Flickr
    These are images that have no known copyright. If you know anything about the photo, please submit info (tags, descriptions) so they can have more data about the images.
  • The Life Magazine archives
    Wonderful photos. If your use is non-profit, you may use these images freely with attribution. If there is any chance of profit, you cannot use these images. Acceptable: your kid’s book project. Unacceptable: compliance training or blog posts.
  • Morguefile.com
    For writers, the morgue file is the drawer of stories you never used. This is like that, but for images. Use anything, any way you want; no attribution required whatsoever. However, I’d at least reference the source as good practice.
  • Stockvault.net
    You must give attribution, but you are allowed to use commercially.


  • Flickr, Vimeo, blip.tv and other sites all have CC licensed content that you can use.
  • YouTube has no real licensing. Be smart, don’t use stuff that is obviously copyrighted. The only reason it’s still on there is just that YouTube hasn’t gotten to it yet to take it down. You don’t want to end up with the black screen message: “this video has been removed for violation of copyright” in your training course or on your site.
  • While there are ways to download from YouTube, Vimeo, etc., it is illegal. Period.

More of Michelle’s resources can be found here.

7 thoughts on “#LS2011 Session Recap: Keepin’ It Legal by Michelle Lentz

    1. My pleasure, Judy. I have some additional thoughts I’ll post next week – about common misuse of copyrighted materials. This is an important topic for me.

    1. Sure! It was a great session. Michelle is an awesome presenter, and encourages doing the right thing with content and attribution. This should be obvious, but often isn’t. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Though I attended the session, my note taking skills were not up to par. Thanks, Brian, for summarzing Michelle’s great presentation.

  2. Though I attended Michelle’s wonderful presentation, my note taking skills were not up to par. Thanks, Brian, for summarizing the great information Michelle provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.