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Digital Storytelling

The goal of this guide is to explain the purpose and value of digital storytelling for the sciences, and to describe applications, tools, and tutorials to tell your own digital stories.


Digital storytelling often involves incorporating multimedia elements that someone else created, whether that's images, music, videos, or research. The United States protects people's intellectual property through copyright. This page will offer guidelines and resources for how to navigate copyright, so that you can utilize other people's works in a way that gives credit to the creator and doesn't get you in trouble with the law.

When can I use something?

Flow chart to answer the question "Can I Use this work?" What is the copyright status? If the work is under copyright (assume unless otherwise stated) either: a) Get Permission - contact the copyright holder and get their permission in writing to use their work. Be sure to include the permission in your assignment and publicy attribute the work or b) Use under Fair Use - Fair Use is a legal doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted material under certain conditions. Use is more likely to be Fair Use if: Its for noncommercial, educational purposes; Its used in a different way or for a different purpose than the original (parody, commentary, mash-up, illustration); Only a small part of the work, like a cropped image or a s hort clip, is used. If the work is under a Creative Commons License: Use under CC - Creative Commons gives advance permission from the creator to use their work under the terms of the CC license. These terms often include crediting the creator, non-commercial use, or releasing the new work under the same CC license (share-alike). If the Work is in the public domain: Use (reasonably) - You are free to use this, it's no longer under copyright! But still give proper attribution where possible and do not attempt to pass the work off as your own. (Doing so is still plagiarism.)

Getting Permission to Use Copyrighted Material

Fair Use

Creative Commons

Public Domain

Giving Attribution

When attributing a multimedia work, there are four very important pieces of information that you need- Title, Author, Source, and License.

The source is necessary so that the image has a "paper trail" of sorts. Practically all works you find electronically will have a URL to link back to them.

The author is very important, and for most licenses you must reference the author.

The title is nice to have, especially if the author has given it a descriptive or artistic name. It is not as important as the others, but is helpful to readers to gain some more context from the work and for the author.

In this assignment, the license will probably only apply if the work is under a Creative Commons license. The license will tell you what you can and cannot do with the image.