Chapter 4: Credit Others

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.”   – writer, Voltaire


Technology has made it easier than ever to copy and paste content from one source to another and it has complicated the conversation about copyright, fair use, and plagiarism. While there may be added complexity, it is more important than ever to credit the work of others and equally important to help our students understand how and when to credit others.

Who inspired you?

Crediting others is not just about providing proper citations. Crediting others is helping others find the sources of your research or your inspiration. It is about respecting the work of others and understanding that nearly everything is a group effort. Whether you prefer to attribute Sir Isaac Newton or Bernard of Chartres with the following quote,

it appears that the idea of crediting others came well before the information age and the Internet.

plagiarism cartoon
Maybe students don’t see it like we do? What is obvious to us may not be to them?

There is no escaping that the proper crediting of other’s work is an honor code concern. Our teachers and librarians will help us provide proper MLA citation especially when we diligently construct our research papers, but how does it work to credit others when creating online or sharing images via Instagram? What about putting images in a presentation to share in class? Does it matter who the audience is? If it is just for class, do you need to worry about links to the originals?

Another problem is the proper compensation to the originator of the work. Some creators simply request that you provide a link back to their work. Other artists like musicians or cartoonists get paid for their work. If you download a song from an illegal website instead of purchasing the song, are you depriving the artist of their proper credit for their work? Students need us to model giving credit daily. Are the images in your powerpoint linked to the original source? Did you ask permission for right to use the image or work of others?

Another consideration about crediting others relates to increasing the value of your student’s work. If their work is linked to source material then the reader or user of their work can dig deeper and investigate the background information that shapes their work. Citing your sources is not just protecting the original creator, but it is about shaping a path for other like minded explorers. Read Artist and Author, Austin Kleon’s post entitled “Credit is Always Due” to learn more.

To learn more about crediting others for their work, think about someone using your work or the work of your students without permission. Beyond how it would make you and your students feel, what other problems would it cause? Check out Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools, to learn more about helping our students protect their work and understand how to respectfully, accurately, and purposely credit others.

did it myself cartoon

Take Action

Using the work of others

Let’s be real. Most of us use the work of other people all the time without for a moment considering the effort that went into the resource we are using. Some resources like books, music, and movies we purchase the right to use. Other resources like online news sites, google image searches, insta-gram, blog posts, and video hosting sites like YouTube are free. We share the things we find by re-tweeting, liking, re-posting and more often than not it clear whether we are sharing someone else’s work or our own.

This chapter is asking us to consider how we make sure that the original creator of the work gets credit and how we make sure we respect that creator.

Try this: For each item listed below, discuss whether the original creator needs to be attributed. Think about why it would be ok for you use their work without giving them credit and how you would give them credit if it is deserved.

  1. Using an image from Google Image search in a classroom presentation.
  2. Using an image from Google Image search in a presentation at a Science Fair competition.
  3. Downloading music without paying for it.
  4. Downloading a song you don’t even like just for a single use at school event.
  5. Taking someone else’s picture and editing it for a school art project.
  6. Making a re-mix of a song or songs.
  7. Copying the style of an artist (music, art, acting) in your own performance.
  8. Putting a series of images together with your original voice-over explaining the importance of the images.
  9. Creating a birthday card for a friend using Disney images found in a google search.
  10. Creating a slideshow of images to play while you are reading a speech by Martin Luther King, JR.

There is no answer key for this activity for several reasons. First, having the answer key right here would reduce the conversation and debate. Second, it is important that we determine what we believe to be fair and just by ourselves before looking for the answers. Lastly, this section is more about asking yourself the right questions than knowing the rules of citation. 

How do you take action? Share your ideas here. 

Lesson plan, resources, & more

5 Online Tools to Help Combat Plagiarism

Edutopia blog post that shares 5 free or low cost resources for teachers and students to use to educate themselves about plagiarism.

Grades K-2: My Creative Work

Students are introduced to the concept of having ownership over creative work. They practice putting their name and date on something they produce.

Grades 3-5: Whose Is It, Anyway?

Students learn that copying the work of others and presenting it as one’s own is called plagiarism. They also learn about when and how it’s ok to use the work of others.

Grades 6-8: A Creator’s Rights

Students are introduced to copyright, fair use, and the rights they have as creators.

Grades 6-8: Rework, Reuse, Remix

Students are introduced to copyright, fair use, and the rights they have as creators.

Grades 6-8: A Creator’s Responsibilities

Students reflect on their responsibilities as creators and users of creative work.

Grades 6-12: Understand YouTube, Digital Citizenship, & Copyright

Understand what content is and is not copyrighted.  Understand that the best way to avoid copyright infringement online is only by posting 100% original content you create.

Grades 6-12: What Plagiarism Looks Like, Remarkable Visual of Congressman’s Mistakes

Senator John Walsh of Montana took most of a 2007 final paper required for his master’s degree from the United States Army War College from other sources without proper attribution.

Grades 6-12 A case study for “give credit where it is due” or asking permission before use

Goldie box engineering toys for girls, the Beastie Boys, and giving credit

Grades 9-12: Copyrights and Wrongs

Students explore the legal and ethical dimensions of respecting creative work.

Grades 9-12: Rights, Remixes, and Respect

Students reflect on the differences between taking inspiration from the creative work of others and appropriating that work without permission.

Grades 9-12: Retouching Reality

Students think critically about the different purposes and contexts of digital image editing.

Grades 9-12: Credit is Always Due

Ever wonder how an author or artist views crediting the influences and sources of their work? Read Austin Kleon’s post about crediting others.

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