SNO Offers Some Tips on How To Avoid Using Copyrighted Materials on Your Website

With spring quickly approaching, your publication may have already set a few goals for the rest of the year – trying out some new content, earning more Distinguished Sites badges, or maybe even looking ahead to summer workshops (either for you or for your staff).  

Whatever your goals, we’d encourage you to add one more that will hopefully protect your site from legal trouble: avoiding copyright infringement and properly crediting creators. 

Last year, we published some tips on how to avoid copyright infringement, but here are a few other things to keep in mind if you download images, b-roll, or background music for use on your site:

  • Reserve the photographer field for images taken by your staff. Using that field for non-staff photographers creates an unnecessary page on your site. Note photo attributions for non-staff members at the end of the caption field instead (e.g. Jamal Smith scores a goal. Photo used with permission from Joe Photo.)
  • Unless you have a written agreement with a news outlet or media company to use their content, those images, b-roll, or background music are copyrighted and cannot be used.
  • If you use images from a free-licensing library, like Creative Commons or Wikimedia, make sure to read the license carefully for each photo and follow it exactly. Many times this requires embedding links back to the original photo, photographer, and license. If this is the case, we have a support article on how to do that.
  • Just like your staff members would want their individual byline rather than just the site or school name, we encourage noting the individual artists whenever possible from sites like Pexels, Unsplash, etc.

Finally, we are not lawyers. If you do receive a takedown notice, cease & desist, bill, or any other documentation from a law firm claiming to represent a copyright holder, you should contact your district’s attorney or the Student Press Law Center immediately before engaging with the sender.

*This piece was first published in a SNO Report Email Newsletter distributed by SNO on Feb. 13.

Kyle Phillips

Kyle Phillips is the newspaper and student news website adviser at Cedar Rapids George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is the secretary of the Iowa High School Press Association and was named a 2014 Rising Star by the Journalism Education Association.

Kyle Phillips has 11 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Phillips

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