Category Archives: Copyright

Blatant Stealing

I was simply looking for Sketchnoting supplies on Amazon yesterday, when the algorithm suggested the following book: A Simple Guide to Sketchnoting by Dorothy Bell. Immediately, I was taken aback, since as I was looking at the cover of the book, I looked at one of MY own sketchnotes.

It was an odd feeling, when the realization set in, that this self-publishing author, had simply lifted the image, which I had shared in 2014 on a blog post, titled Sketchnoting for Learning.

The image was a blended sketchnote I had created from a Stock image (the nutshell) I purchased from 123RF.

I then created the sketchnote in my Paper Fiftythree app on the iPad.

I have to admit, I was pretty upset, with that blatant way this author, just lifted the image and used it for her own work. I receive many request from people around the world, who are interested in using my images on presentations, in their libraries, with their students, in course work, etc… And I am always happy to allow these with proper attribution and for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes. This Amazon book was just too much and left a very bad taste in my mouth!!

I tried to locate the author, Dorothy Bell, on Amazon, looking for an author page, but could not find one. A google search did not allow me to find a website, a twitter or facebook presence. Since there was no evidence of an “author”‘s online presence , it fueled my suspicion further.


  • author with no (or not easily find-able) Internet presence
  • very similar title to another from another author  (the words in the title are just switched around a little)
  • a google search showed that the book in question has been uploaded to all different Amazon country sites
  • there is a feeling of an automated copying bot (I share that feeling with another message I received via Twitter)
  • in a google image search (see screenshot below) of another book title from the author, I received three VERY SIMILAR book covers with the same name , but attributed to different authors (Dorothy Bell, Olivia Russel & Amanda Smith)

My first impulse was to write a “review” on the product page, but I decided to go to Twitter and ask for further help or ideas in locating the author. I wanted to see, if I could directly get in touch with her. My network agreed, that this author was rather suspicious.

Becky’s tweet, made me think to document this incident and to publish on this blog in the hope to continue to raise awareness of copyright, digital citizenship, and share what to do with you are confronted with copyright infringement. I am also wondering how to turn the incident into an example, lesson or project for students. Could they become copyright infringement detectives? How could their radar for detecting copyright infringement online be honed and set to alert when they see something suspicious?


At the same time, I reported copyright infringement directly on Amazon. I am happy to report that Amazon responded within 12 hours and within 24 hours the page to the book by Dorothy Bell was removed (I checked the .com/.uk/.it site and they were removed, while the book was still available on the German .de and France .fr site of Amazon). While some Amazon  sites  have taken the product down, this does not mean, the “Stolen image” has no already spread to other sites (Pinterest, Goodread) with little or no hope that the spread will be contained.

If you are thinking of a way to use this incident to model good citizenship, literacy, etc. for and with your students, please share in the comment section below.


Copyright Flowchart: Can I Use It? Yes? No? If This… Then…

It is the responsibility of all educators to model good digital citizenship for their students. Especially when it comes to copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property. The waters are murky. Not being familiar with online digital rights and responsibilities (hey, teachers did not grow up with the Internet being around), educators are wading through uncharted waters (hey, I did not know that I could not just google an image to use. If someone puts it up online it is free for the taking). That does not mean they can close their eyes and pretend life is the same or that the same rules apply to online versus offline use of copyrighted material with their students.

It is every educator’s responsibility to become familiar , observe and model for their students! It is also every educator’s responsibility to not lump in all educational use of copyrighted material under the claim of Fair Use (hey, I am using it in school, I am not making money off of it…) . It is not that simple…


I have written about copyright on this blog many time. Some highlighted posts are:

The waters are murky, it is not an easy topic. While there are some clear cut rules about copyrighted material, Creative Commons and Public Domain content, Fair Use in Education are supported by GUIDELINES, not clear cut rules!


Together with the Academic Technology Team at Graded- The American School of São Paulo,  the importance of developing a school policy in regards to copyright was discussed. It was not just about developing a policy, but also about:

  • raising awareness of copyright issues in a digital world
  • bringing relevance to classroom teacher at all levels and subject areas in understanding copyright in digital education spaces and seeing it not just as part of the domain of a ‘technology person”
  • helping teachers shift from previous practices regarding copyrighted material in an analog world
  • internalize ethical behavior regarding intellectual property available in an online environment

We did our due diligence in researching and gain a better understanding of how other educational organizations were dealing with copyright policy creation, teacher education and support.

Meryl Zeidenberg, the school’s library coordinator, and I started working on taking the gathered research to inform the development, articulation and design of an  “If this… Then that…”type flowchart to better support teachers in making decision when using different types of media in teaching, blogging, presentations or projects.


We have ubiquitous digital access, ease of duplication and distribution of information. We encourage students and faculty alike to write, record, and film for global audiences, thus ushering in a new era of copyright consciousness.

The following infographic chart was developed with an introduction of a New Era of Copyright Consciousness and a suggested simplified flow to follow:

  • create your own media (then you don’t have to worry about infringing on someone else’s copyright) 
  • search for public domain media (then you don’t have to worry about copyright, since it has been voluntarily released or has expired. No worries about giving proper attribution or citing the source either) 
  • search within the Creative Commons domain (make sure you double check requirements under the license: attribution?, non-derivative? non-commercial? etc.)
  • determine if your use of the copyrighted material can fall under Fair Use?


[The flowchart is an attempt in creating a clear route to follow to something that is not as clear cut in nature. If you choose to use it, please do so in the spirit of such disclaimer.]

Copyright Flowchart

How to Cite Images on Your Blog


When using Copyrighted work with written permission from owner…

citation-arrowUsed with permission from “name” , URL link to original source and or owner online presence.

Ex. Used with permission from Silvia Tolisano×225.jpg


When using images licensed under Creative Commons…

citation-arrowImage licensed under Creative Commons by “name or username “. Link to original source.

Ex. Image licensed under Creative Commons by langwitches-


When using an image falling under Public Domain, you are not required to cite the creator/owner of the work. A teacher or student wanting to model awareness for Public Domain might want to choose to include.

citation-arrowImage from Public Domain by “name”. Link to original source.



When using images claiming Fair Use, you have to give full credit to original creator , with name  as well as link to original source (ex. Book or website)

citation-arrowImage used, claiming Fair Use. “Full Name”- and source of original work.


Click to enlarge poster.


Bringing Copyright Awareness to the Surface

Every once in a while I visit the Microsoft Office Clipart Gallery. I just realized that they have redesigned the page. It is suddenly titled “Find Images Where you Need Them” and is divided into three sections:

  1. Using the Newest Office on Your Desktop
  2. Using Office Web App
  3. Using Bing to get Images.

It is the last section that caught my attention. Bing is a search engine, just like Google . You can read the following step-by-step directions to find images with Bing Search



  1. Open in your browser, type a word or phrase describing the art you want, and start the search
  2. Hover over your selected item in the result set and right click you mouse to bring up an Options menu
  3. Click Save picture as… in the menu. Save image

What is WRONG with these instructions?  From my perspective Microsoft, so keen in protecting their own copyright on their products, feels that it is irrelevant to even bring it to the attention of their users that the images showing up in their Bing search results might be copyright protected and it is not as as simple as right clicking and saving them. From my perspective, these kind of instructions even ENDORSE copyright infringement!

For the fun of it, I typed in “langwitches” on Bing and saw the following results. According to Microsoft, just right click away and save this images to your computer!



Oddly enough, Microsoft explains copyright on another page by stating explicitly:

If you use someone else’s copyrighted materials without permission, that use generally violates the copyright owner’s exclusive rights, and is copyright infringement. So if you create a new work and include parts of other people’s works in it (such as an existing photo, lengthy quotes from a book or a loop from a song), you must own or have permission to use the elements you borrow.

There are other companies, like Soundcloud, a community of music and audio creators, on the other hand seems to be much more proactive in helping raise awareness and educate their users about copyright. They even have prepared and included a very useful Copyright Checklist.

SoundCloud is a platform for creators and we expect all SoundCloud users to respect other people’s copyright.
What is copyright?
What is copyright infringement and how can I avoid it?
Copyright Checklist
Further resources

Copyright is complicated. If you have any doubt regarding the extent of your rights in any sounds, you should consult with a suitably qualified lawyer before uploading anything to SoundCloud or making any claims or counter-claims regarding your rights. However, as a general guide, here are some of the issues you might want to consider before uploading anything to SoundCloud.

I applaud companies, like Soundcloud in their effort to bring copyright awareness to the surface and am very disappointing in companies like Microsoft who even seem to encourage copyright infringement!