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Flashing up Copyright

Images are a great way to spruce up a bland website. But what about the copyright issues? Greg Wright illustrates how to put your pupils in the picture

More and more, pupils are publishing work on websites or blogs, and are downloading images to illustrate them. Yet copyright is not very well understood, and is not adequately addressed.

My pupils, for example, would not encounter such issues until A-level ICT, yet by Year 9 many are actively creating and appropriating online content. So it's easy for them to infringe copyright before they even know what it is.

The topic should be raised in the classroom much earlier than it is now, when pupils are first exploring search engines, especially the image facility.

They need to realise that all work on the web has been created by someone and that its use may be restricted. The principle can be introduced through a discussion about copying other people's homework. At this stage you might not even mention the word copyright, but you will be implanting the idea.

One inventive way to avoid picture theft is to take your own. You could create a school image library, containing all the pictures or graphics that pupils need to complete their tasks.

It will take time to build up but it's worth the investment. These pictures can come from teachers or pupils, perhaps from school trips. I find pupils are happy to take photos to illustrate particular points.

Then there is Flickr, the website that photographers use to share their images, searchable by keyword. Many images on the site are available to use under certain restrictions. If you add "creative commons" to the keywords in the search box you will get to these images quickly.

The actual terms of use vary, so you need to look into them individually. If you cannot find what you want this way, you can always try emailing the photographer, who may be happy for the image to be used.

Older pupils can explore photographic agencies such as iStockphoto, Alamy, Corbis or Getty. When they use these agencies to search for an image, pupils will usually find a watermarked thumbnail that they can include in their document layout. They can then calculate the cost of using it.

The photos from most of these agencies are probably too expensive for most schools to licence unless there is a compelling reason. An exception is iStockphoto, where images can be had for as little as 50p

Greg Wright is an ICT teacher at Gillingham School in Dorset.

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