Academic Honesty in an Electronic Learning Environment

Copyright Status
Fair Use
Citing Sources

Example from a Term Paper Mill

Everywhere you look there are computer games, but it just isn’t the fun computer games anymore, they are making more and more learning programs.

Technology is a positive influence in the education field, from 123 Help Me


Sources of Public Domain Media

Copyrights have a limited life, or duration, but can be renewed or transferred. When a work is no longer owned, it is said to be in the public domain. 

These sites are relatively trustworthy or attempt to explain the status of a work.

Wikipedia Public Domain Image Resources

  • Use extra-caution.  Because there are multiple authors, some entries may not be as reliable as others.
  • Provides subject category organization of links to federal government sites.  Government publications are in the public domain. 
  • For sites other than .gov, annotations attempt to explain use restrictions.

flickr photo sharing

  • Open site where anyone can post pictures. 
  • The site is searchable using key terms, or tags, assigned by the individual posting.
  • Flickr posts use Creative Commons flexible licensing for creative works.
  • Each image explains license restrictions.

Verifying the Copyright Status

Copyright status (whether it is owned or in the public domain) is complicated.  Many web sites will promote free graphics or free music.  It is your duty to verify the status of a copyrighted work. 

If your photo source makes it difficult to ascertain the ownership, move to another source.

Determining What's Fair Use

A four factor tests helps determine what is fair under the Copyright Act of 1976.

1) How much are you using?

The portion of the work is limited to

  • Motion Pictures: 10% or 3 minutes
  • Text: 10% or 1000 words
  • Music: 10%, but no more than 30 seconds
  • Illustrations and photos: No more than 5 images per artist in one project per academic semester.
  • Data sets: Up to 10% or 2500 fields or cell entries.

2) What is the purpose?

The Fair Use Doctrine allows use of materials without permission for the purposes of teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, news reporting, or comment.

Uses for educational purposes weigh in the favor of fairness over commercial uses.

3) What is the nature of the work?

It is more fair to use fact-based materials than those created with imagination.

4) What is the economic impact to the creator?

The extent to which your use will impact the market of a work that is available for purchase is weighed.

Citing Digital Media Resources

Plan ahead.  For each piece of media, you will need to collect the following information:

  • Artist's name
  • Title of work
  • Date published
  • Title of collection
  • Web Address
  • Date item was located at address

Sample Citation:

Artist last name, first name, middle initial. Title of work. Date published. "Title of Collection." [Web address of resource] (Date item located).


How to Cite Electronic Resources from the Library of Congress explains how to cite video, audio, photos, & maps in MLA or Turabian Style.

Proposal for Educational Fair Use of Digital Images

Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code. (Circular 92).  Section 107.