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6 Sep 2017

Navigating the complexity of copyright when creating or illustrating your learning resources

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As teachers within the FE sector we are constantly reminded of the need to ensure our training materials are bright, colourful, visually engaging and interactive, to meet the varying learning styles and attention spans of adult learners.  However, trying to source these materials without infringing copyright laws can be a minefield. If a photograph or picture is on the web, can we copy it? If a questionnaire is published on the web, can we use it? These questions are not easy to answer with yes or no answers as copyright differs from situation to situation. Within Learning and Development, we quite often take concepts and ideas that we have come across and develop them into tools and materials to meet our own needs, however when it comes to directly downloading or using any resources from third parties we run the risk of hefty fines if we are not aware of whether we can or cannot use it without permission or purchase of a licence.

Many firms are now taking a strong approach to copyright infringement and developing high tech software to try and trace their materials, and subsequently suing those using content illegally.


Check first of all whether you are allowed to use it.  If so, do you need to purchase a licence? If you are allowed to use it, are there any restrictions? Do you need to display the source / originator as part of your agreement? Can you use it in a commercial context such as on a website, training materials, in PowerPoint presentations,marketing leaflets.

We have put together some essential tools and websites below that you can use effectively without infringing copyright. Some of these are direct images, some are tools to create your images and personalise them to your L&D needs.

https://www.stockvault.net/ – a good source of copyright free images for use in both commercial and non commercial context

https://freerangestock.com/  – Another good source of free images

https://pixabay.com/    Another good source of free images

https://search.creativecommons.org/   This is a site where you can search by using the CC search engine to find free and copyright free images  for your project. A very good resource but always check the licencing terms for each image found as they may have differing copyright terms

https://unsplash.com/ – Another site where photographers ‘gift’ their pictures for free use

A good way to avoid copyright issues, is to create and use your own photographs and images. The following sites offer on-site tools for creating your own word trees, convert text into images and add words to existing images:

https://picfont.com/  – A free text editor to edit pictures, add text, use different fonts etc

http://quozio.com/ –  A great editor to create images using quotes and backgrounds


In summary:

Always check your images and sources and try to be a little bit more creative in designing your own or using some great free content from some of the sources above. However don’t be put off purchasing some good quality images, often the quality is better as they offer you a better resolution than that already on the web, and it can often be more cost effective than trawling through free websites trying to find ‘something that fits your needs’. That way you know that you will be legitimate and free from the risk of litigation.

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