Photo Sharing – the captured world – the plagiarized world

July 9, 2009
Kayaking picture as found on Flickr

Kayaking picture as found on Flickr - Posted by Mike Joa - click to see Flickr page

I have the pleasure of teaching a new option at our school this year.  It is called Athletic Pursuits and will have students leaving the school once a week to participate in traditional and non-traditional athletic activities.  One of the activities that I am going to ensure that my students get a chance to participate in is light water craft such as kayaking or canoeing.  I don’t think we will be getting into rapids such as in the picture here.

The picture shown here was found using Flickr.  I was looking for a “hook” and as I have noticed, the use of a picture is a great way.  In searching for a picture, I was looking for something that was interesting and appealing.  The search feature in Flickr is a wonderful tool.  By searching ‘kayaking”, I was able to find an abundance of pictures.  What I found more interesting, however, was that some of the pictures were marked All Rights Reserved (ARR). I wondered what exactly that meant.  More importantly, some of the images were not ARR, but had some sort of Creative Commons License attached to them.  ARR in a nutshell is a picture being shown on Flickr, but the creator of the image is displaying it for that purpose only.  Creative Common is way to identify the image as having more choices.  For example, the image that I placed above is an Attributed Non-Commercial No Derivative Work image.  This means that I am able to post it here as long as I attribute the image, do not gain financially from posting it here, and do not make a derivative of the picture in any way.  I hope scaling the picture down does not constitute a derivative because I did shrink  the picture slightly.  This type of copyright allows for use of photos without the need to get permission.  This is a particularly important issue.

{As a side note, is this not an example of the community that is the internet and 2.0.   This is a perfect example of how knowledge and product is being shared for all to use.  I suspect I will have a blog related to this in the video sharing segment of this blog}

Flickr and other photo sharing sites allow for students to interact and find media that they can use, but there is the need to properly cite the work that is used.  Teachers and librarians are the individuals that will need to be tasked with this responsibility.  I did a search of citing online images and found very little other than APA and MLA sites.  What I am curious about is sharing with students the WHY behind citing images.  It is far too easy for students to right click copy, ALT-TAB, CTRL-V an image into a PowerPoint or paper and just continue on writing.  In today’s wide world of access to images and content, students fail to realize the importance of giving credit.  What is the role of the teacher? of the librarian?  How do we stop this blatant plagiarism in schools? I believe the answer is media literacy for all students.  This could be part of a language arts program or a technology course.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this?

On another related note, Flickr has a section called The Commons which consists of insitutions, mostly of a heritage nature, that are releasing their pictures with no known copyright restrictions.  This is another great example of how the internet is allowing for sharing of information for the masses.

Photo sharing is a concept that will allow for more rich and diverse learning, but there is a responsibility that goes along with it and I think that is where teachers and librarians come in.




  1. Thanks for your insights on plagiarism Dan!

    One of my thoughts that I share with students on the WHY of plagiarism is the using the ethic of reciprocity (aka, Golden Rule or treat others the way you would like to be treated) and you can have them consider how they might feel if they put time and effort or creative power into a project and then someone else uses it and claims the recognition for their efforts.

    • The Golden Rule, a tried and true classic. I think, Heather, that students would say they don’t mind another person taking their work. It is the collaborative mentality of young people (for the most part). It is almost this quid pro quo attitude of if I rip something off of someone else, they can rip it off of me.

      This language is used in the world of torrents as well. For those of you who may not be aware, torrents are information files that link a torrent downloader to files on a variety of different computers so that someone can download it. It is a peer-to-peer file transfer program. When someone has the whole file available for download to everybody else, they are called a seeder. When someone does not have the full file and is simply downloading it, they are called a leecher. The terminology shows how those that are sharing are seen in a much better light than those that are not.

      Plagiarism is like stealing and for kids today, unless there is the physical theft of something (a watch, a purse, a car), it is not really seen as theft. Downloading a movie or ripping off a picture is simply called downloading or “sharing” and seen as acceptable.


  2. I think media literacy (and information literacy – the term teacher-librarians use for all of this stuff) will evolve as we try to understand the participatory web. Creative Commons Licenses, Open Access Journals, etc. are making inroads into academic publishing and that is changing the nature of academic work.

  3. It brings to mind the family that found their photograph on a billboard in another country advertising insurance or something like that. This was a story which was in the news in June. Apparently the advertiser discovered the family photo on a website somewhere and decided to borrow it to use on the billboard.

    I think it is one thing if the author gives permission for sharing. It is another if no permission is given or sought. I noticed that on Flickr you are asked what level of sharing you are willing to do with your photos. Wouldn’t there still be a way for someone to grab your image even if you said it was not to be shared?

  4. Hi Dan, I too have wondered about the copyright implications of such sites. Thanks for the information about copyright and pictures. I’ll be sure to think twice before I use a picture next time!


  5. […] for their efforts.  Dan posted a comment in response to reciprocity.  On my first read, Dan’s response to my comment postseemed to me to excuse plagiarism and copyright infringement because students have new conceptions […]

  6. Lots of folks talk about this subject but you wrote down really true words!

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