Given that your ePortfolio is an online version of your work, anything displayed on your site will be considered your own. However, as with academic research papers, there are times when you may include material created by another individual. Make sure to read this next section to understand the protocol behind sourcing someone else’s work.
Why You Need to Cite
Anything you are sourcing from the internet is subject to copyright law – that includes images, excerpts, music, maps, and any other “products” of an individual’s work. This means that using these materials without permission or citation is illegal; while plagiarism is an ethical violation, infringing on copyright is breaking a law. Given the ability to easily access others’ work widely on the internet without the creator’s knowledge, understanding copyright is important, for a legal reason as well as for maintaining academic integrity.
Copyright is the right of a creator to their original work. It allows for creators to share with the public without fear that their work could be stolen without retribution; on the user side, it allows access to a variety of materials that might otherwise be hidden from the public. Copyright owners can grant users with the ability to copy through licenses, which include stipulations as to how the work can be copied. Before copying a work, you must check the license’s conditions, which could include attributing the creator with your copy, non-commercial use, or even free access.
Copyright at UBC explains it well: “The rights of the copyright owner […] are subject to certain user rights, which permit members of the general public to copy, perform etc. works in certain limited circumstances, without the copyright owner’s knowledge or permission.”
The Canadian Copyright Act provides situations where permission from the copyright holder is not necessary, and there are some sources that do not require permission (for example, the public domain), but this is not always the case. You must be sure to follow the rules laid out with the item you are sourcing.
You may have heard that, as a student, you can copy or download copyrighted information for your studies or your research—but while certain education exemptions are permitted under the Canadian Copyright Act, the reproduction of copyrighted content in your ePortfolio is not one of these exemptions.
Image Sourcing and Attributing
Including images in your ePortfolio can make your site more visually appealing and less text-heavy, which are important components of a strong online portfolio. There are three ways to use an image legally: (1) use your own images, (2) receive permission in writing from the copyright holder, or (3) use an image that comes either from the public domain or under a Creative Commons license.
You are free to use an image from the public domain without permission or attribution of the image – the public domain means that the creator’s copyright has expired. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine when a work is in the public domain because many factors can shape how long copyright lasts for an individual work. Creative Commons images can be easier to work with. With images under Creative Commons license, the creator has the ability to decide how the material can be reproduced by specifying certain conditions: these licenses do not require permission, but they do require you to follow certain rules, such as attribution, which means citing the creator of the image with the copy. CC provides a complete list of their licenses here. Copyright at UBC`s Creative Commons guide also provides a complete list of Creative Commons licenses in the section Understanding the Different Creative Commons Licenses.
Many sites have free open-source images available to the public for use and/or modification. Before displaying one of these images in your ePortfolio, make sure to read the copyright and usage rules on the website.
Some websites with free stock photos:
How it Works with UBC WordPress Blogs
When you upload a media file to WordPress Blogs, you are prompted with three options to choose from for copyright authorization: (1) With the permission of the copyright holder(s), (2) Public Domain, and (3) Other. There are three scenarios that would cause you to choose the first option: you hold the copyright to the material (i.e. you are the creator of the work); you have permission in writing from the copyright holder; or, a Creative Commons license permits your use of the material. For the last scenario, you have to be certain that you understand what this license entails.
Protecting Your Own Work
In Canada a work is protected by copyright as soon as it is recorded in a physical medium. If you wish to protect a digital work like an ePortfolio, you can choose to include a copyright notice on your work to remind users that you own the rights to the material – see “Indicating Copyright” in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s Guide to Copyright. Also, when uploading your original work, consider saving it as a PDF to prevent copying.
- UBC’s Academic Misconduct webpage has more details about how to avoid plagiarism and other academic integrity issues.
- UBC’s Copyright Office has extensive information on following Copyright law.
- Dalhousie University’s Copyright Resources page includes links to easy-to-understand writers on intellectual property, the internet, and other digital media.
- Hootsuite’s 28 Sept 2016 blog entry on Copyright–although it was written for a US rather than a Canadian audience–nonetheless contains good information on how to find free-to-use images online.
- Copyright at UBC. “Copyright Guidelines for UBC Faculty, Staff and Students.”
- Copyright at UBC. “Student FAQ.”
- Copyright at UBC. “Why Should I Care?“
- Pearl River Community College Student ePortfolios. “Copyright Issues.”
- San Francisco State University. “Student Resources.”