Internet and copyright

copy right: Creative Commons

It’s so easy: just quickly search for an image in Google and use it on your own website. Or pluck a well-written text from the Internet and stick it in your course.

In almost all cases this is an infringement of copyright. What is the situation with regard to free use of material on the internet?

This article contains general tips for legitimate (re-)use. See auteursrechten.avans.nl for more information on educational copyright, for instance in readers and Blackboard courses.

Allowed or not allowed?

  • Quoting - using short fragments with an acknowledgment (!) - is allowed.
  • Linking to a site or embedding videos is also allowed.
  • Republishing or editing other people's material is not allowed, unless you have permission of the author.

Reuse freely?

When it comes to a lot of illustration material and text on the internet, the rules are clear and simple. Here are some examples:


Texts on Wikipedia have been released for reuse.

Xplora databases
The use for your own study products is permitted, if an attribution is added. Xplora has signed a license for the use of this content.


Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commmons is an ever expanding store of illustrations. The quality can vary, but you can almost always find something to illustrate your text.

Use is usually free, provided you cite the author and make the material freely available.
Only logical: you cannot claim copyright on material which another person has released for access.

Photo Pin
Photo Pin is a search engine for the huge amount of images on Flickr. Photo Pin accompanies each picture with credits, that you can paste as a reference in your site.

Embedding videos

Film clips on websites like TED talks, YouTube, Video Arts and Vimeo can often be 'embedded' in your website’s HTML layout code. Simply cut and paste the code for the film clip. This is essentially a link to the provider’s website.

dotSUB is both a tool and a YouTube-style distribution channel. Visit dotSUB to subtitle your instructional film and then make this available to the online community. Translations of many useful YouTube film clips can be found here. For example Barack Obama’s Victory Speech was also translated and posted on dotSUB just thee days after he made it.

Free music

Tunes and sound clips on Freesound.org are free to use. If an attribution is required depends on the CC-license.

Creative Commons

A lot of material is published under a Creative Commons (CC) license. This was originally an American project to promote open content. The project offers various free licenses to copyright holders. This enables authors to retain their rights but also set out clear rules themselves as to how and when the material can be reused.

Creative Commons Licenses

The four CC license types:

  • BY: Attribution: others can copy, distribute, display and perform the work and derivative works as long as they credit the original author.

  • NC: Non-commercial: others can copy, distribute, display and perform the work and derivative works for non-commercial purposes.

  • ND: No Derivative Works: others can copy, distribute, display and perform the work, but cannot change the work.

  • SA: Share Alike: derivative works can only be distributed under an identical license (copyleft).

Search engine for CC licensed material

Creative Commons has its own search engine for licensed work that is linked to Google, Yahoo! and Flickr.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Last updated on 18 November 2020.