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Academic Honesty When Using Images, Music, and Video

Academic Honesty is an important mindset we work to cultivate in our students as teachers. We do a very good job to teach our students the ethical (and legal) practices required to ensure written work is their own (i.e. not plagiarized). We teach students how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote. And when ethics-got2they have used other’s ideas, we teach them to cite those ideas and the texts they come from using standard formats like MLA or APA. Along with our intuition, we have awesome tools like, which help the students and us do originality checks on their written work, giving us teachable moments to help students learn from their mistakes when they occur.

With teachers doing more activities and projects that require multimedia elements like images, music, and video, students are faced with the process of having to acquire these elements. The Internet has made it very easy to acquire these elements in just a few clicks. What is often lacking in the process of acquiring and using media, however, is the same ethical practice and mindset we have for writing. We have to be sure that our Academic Honesty scope also applies to the use of images, music, and video in student work. Students need to ensure they do not infringe on the copyrights of others, doing their best to use properly licensed media with clear and accurate attributions given in the work. This is an essential part of digital citizenship training for our students.

Though it’s important to be aware of the backbone to this issue, I’m not going to go into the depths of Copyright law and Fair Use in this post. I will just focus on some quick and practical ways you can get your students to have an ethical mindset to find and use properly licensed media. Unfortunately, there isn’t a tool like for checking multimedia, so we have to build our understanding of the means and websites necessary to get properly licensed media, ensuring and expecting our students are using them.

First, teaching this stop light metaphor to your students is a great place to start to build an ethical mindset for multimedia use.

ethical-media-use-traffic-lightTHE BEST OPTION: Students create their own images, music, and/or video. In the same way we expect students to write using their own words, students creating their own original media when possible is the best way to avoid academic dishonesty and breaching copyright in schoolwork. At the same time, it promotes additional creativity in the classroom. It helps our students to be creators more than consumers with their technology.

THE GOOD AND LEGAL OPTION: Students acquire and use multimedia from Creative Commons, Public Domain, or Royalty Free Internet sites with clear and accurate attribution. These are sites where the creator of the media has given certain usage permissions in advance; the student does not need to seek explicit permission from the creator in advance of using the media as long as there is attribution. Students do need to be aware there are different types of Creative Commons licenses and need to understand what they can and can’t do with the media according the license the creator chooses.

ONLY WHEN THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION: Students acquire and use (copyrighted) media from the Internet with clear and accurate attribution. The use falls under Fair Use. Sometimes there is no other option like when a student needs a scientific image, historical image, or other obscure content that would be difficult to create or find through the other options. In most cases, the use of the media would fall under Fair Use as long as there is clear and accurate attribution to the creator.

It’s also important for you to model this mindset and practice with your students. Follow the stoplight as you seek and use multimedia in your lessons. Always be sure to clearly and accurately attribute multimedia work used in your lessons and presentations.

Second, here are some places where you can guide students to find Creative Commons, Public Domain, and Royalty Free media.

All Media


  • PixabayGeneral image site; most images are Public Domain and free to use.
  • Photos for ClassLegally reusable images with attribution already on each image!
  • PhotoPinCreative Commons licensed photos.
  • TinEye Labs – Legally reusable images searchable by color.
  • Wikimedia Commons – Contains Public Domain and legally licensed media.
  • CompfightYet another search engine to find legally reusable images.


  • CCMixter – Thousands of hours of free to use music for video, film, or video game projects.
  • Free Music Archive – An interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads.
  • Jamendo – Creative Commons licensed music from a variety of genres.

Lastly, here are attribution statements your students and you can use. Note: these attribution statements usually appear in-the-moment when the media appears in the work. For example, if a student is doing a presentation, the image attribution should appear directly on the slide on which the image is placed.

Images (be sure to put the following statement ON EACH IMAGE when it appears in your presentation or other multimedia product)

  • If you have a photographer’s name – “Image by <author’s name> on <website name>
  • If you don’t have a photographer’s name – “Image from <website name>

Video (put the following statement in a corner near the beginning of the video clip for about 5-10 seconds)

  • If you have a videographer’s or production company’s name – “Video by <author’s name> on <website name>
  • If you don’t have a videographer’s or production company’s name – “Videofrom <website name>

Music (it will depend on the context in which music is used. If the music is in a video, put the following statement in a corner when the music begins playing for about 5-10 seconds. If the music is in a presentation, a attribution can be on a slide or can be stated orally if it fits well into the script. If it’s a podcast, the speaker can attribute music at the end of the podcast).

  • <”Song name”> by <artist or band’s name> from <website name>

Image Attribution 1


My Other Life Passion

Thomas Music CollageI typically dedicate this site to my musings about education and related topics for this career about which I’m very passionate. For this post, however, I want to use this venue to promote an album that I finally completed and released for free on the Internet, which relates to my other life passion- music.

I have been playing music pretty much my whole life. I started banging on pots and pans when I was two years old; got my first drum set on my 5th birthday (check it out in the photo collage!); took piano lessons not long after that; took drum lessons starting at around 11 years old; played drums in my first band when I was 17 years old; started teaching myself how to play guitar at 17 years old, and switched to playing guitar in bands when I was about 20 years old. I consider myself a multi-instrumentalist since I can also play bass and some keyboards along with drums and guitar. Since then, I’ve recorded dozens of songs in both home and professional studios, released a few proper CDs, and have played gigs in California and China to crowds of a few people to crowds of many hundred. Even though I never “made it” in the music industry to the point of having a career in it, music and making music has never ceased to be one of the greatest joys in my life.

Though weened as a child in the 1970s on my sister’s Cars, Pretenders, Rolling Stones, and Supertramp records, most of my musical influences stem from Alternative, New Wave, Indie-rock, Indie-pop, Brit Pop, and Post-Punk bands from the early 1980s until the present. Bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, The Sundays, Blur, The Cardigans, Stereolab, Beulah, Death Cab for Cutie, Phoenix, Bloc Party, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club and hundreds of others have tickled my musical soul both emotionally and in regards to song writing.

A few weeks ago I finally finished recording an album for a DIY, indie-rock project I have called South to Madrid. I actually recorded all the guitar, bass, and synthesizer parts for the songs on the album back in December 2005 and January 2006. I’ve only ever needed to get the drums recorded since then. Because I’ve lived in apartments over the years, having an acoustic drum set on which to rehearse and record wasn’t an option. I was never really a fan of electronic drums, so I didn’t consider using them for this recording until I moved here to Abu Dhabi and told myself that I needed to get the album done. I bought the Roland V-Lite HD-3 drums from a music store in Dubai and got to writing and rehearsing the drum parts. I then recorded the drums, mixed, and mastered the album. This album has been a long time coming, and I’m very happy to get the songs out to be heard. All the songs are on YouTube and can be listened to here:

Any or all of the songs can be downloaded on SoundCloud, as well.

All South to Madrid songs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. So, feel free to use, remix, and/or add vocals to any of them!

You can see to what music I’m currently listening by checking out my Last.Fm profile.

You can hear some other songs I’ve recorded in my life along with some other musical detail by checking out my MySpace page.

You can hear additional songs at my SoundCloud site.

You can read biographies and download songs from my other original music bands Turquoise Twice and Allsoulsday.

Check out some songs and videos from one of the cover bands I was in in Beijing- The Friendlies.

I’ve even delved into electronic music under the moniker Benji Tomorrow.

Lastly, you can see some performances of a couple of cover bands I was in while I lived in Beijing, China, by checking out my Likes page on my YouTube Channel.

I would love to hear your feedback on the songs!

South to Madrid album cover3

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