Copyright licensing and files for use in E-Learning

Files for use in E-Learning

This brings me to the use of Creative Commons and other licenses in e-learning courses.

If you are using an image in your course that is CC BY – one of the most liberal of all the image licenses – just requiring you to provide attribution. This specifically means you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

So how do you provide the attribution?

  • Do you put it in the alt text for the image?
  • Do you put it the image description?
  • Do you add a caption below the image to show the attribution?

Specific or Custom Attribution Requirements

So what if the author has specified a special type of attribution – such as including their name, or company name and a URL in the footer of the page of the site using the image or item. Would you want “Images provided by COMPANY X” in the footer of every page ?

If every image creator required this type of attribution you would have a LOT of extra stuff in your footer if you use a lot of images.


  • Do you read the license for an image before using it?

Certificates and Badges

As badges are a hot topic recently, I am consulting on a few projects which are looking at implementing badges. In all cases my advice has been the same: Get the images you use created specifically for you .

The benefit of having new images created means that you can have appropriate branding on them, and with having full ownership of them and will have no rights issues to deal with.

What has this to do with Creative Commons?

If you were to find a nice image on Flickr, twitter, or somewhere else that you wanted to use for a certificate or a badge, and it has a CC license rather than a public domain or royalty free license how will it work?

Okay, so you can provide credit on your course where you use the image to issue a badge, but what about the student who then earns the badge. Are they not bound by the license too when they display the image on a backpack or their own website and have to provide attribution to the creator?

What about their badge backpack host company – are they now bound by the image license?

If you were to read the Terms of use for the OpenBadges you would see that you need to have full unrestricted distribution rights to the Badge (and therefore the image in it). This is because you have to allow Mozilla (and others) freely display the Badge content.

To quote: “As an Issuer, you hereby grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty free license to use badges (including all the content and code in them) pushed to us by Earners from you in connection with the Mozilla Badge Backpack.” – from

There was an interesting discussion on the Open Badges google group about this including the developers of great tool to ensure they had unrestricted rights to the fonts and icons they used in the creation of badges which underlines the importance of the due dilegence involved.

In summary, when you go to use an image for a badge or certificate – be sure you are fully aware of the implications of the license and if you are unsure ask the creator and/or your legal team! And if in doubt, get your own created.

But how about the Meta data of the image

In Moodle 2 you can set the author and license when adding a file into Moodle, but how do you provide the attribution?

Do you create a file to add to the course with all the licensed images / videos  and the link / author info or have you found another way to handle this correctly? And of course if you have used a share-alike type license in your course is your course available as creative commons with same license?

A work experience student working with me just released an early version of a block -> Course Files. This is just an early version and shows all files in a course only viewable by the teacher.

course list

However, this could end up as a “course credits” block showing a list of just the creative commons files and the author/license etc but viewable by all in course (including students).

When you drag and drop a file into Moodle it assigns the default license on the site and your name as the author. So you will need to go in and edit it to correct the meta data if incorrect.

Some of the repository APIs are copying in metadata of files(Like mediawiki one) but this of course depends on how the API works on the repository itself.


  • How do you handle the attribution aspect of files in e-learning?

** This was originally part of another blog post which I broke in two : Some thoughts on Licenses

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3 Responses to Copyright licensing and files for use in E-Learning

  1. A “course credits” block is an outstanding idea. +1 for Gavin.

  2. ghenrick says:

    Thanks Bryan.

    The early version is available on Github here ->

    The forum discussion on it is here ->

  3. Pingback: Copyright licensing and files for use in E-Learning | eTraining Pedia

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