Citing Your Sources in a Web 2.0 World

The amount of multimedia content available on the Internet is increasing astronomically, making it easier than ever for college students to wittingly or unwittingly commit plagiarism or violate someone’s copyright. With a simple copy and paste action, students can take someone else’s words and use them as their own in a research paper. For a multimedia project, a student might simply swipe a video or audio file they found online and embed it into their project without first getting permission from the owner. Students must be wary of taking these actions, both for the sake of academic integrity and because certain uses of copyrighted materials might get you sued or land you some steep fines.

Most students can avoid plagiarism from the Web by first making sure that the lion’s share of anything they write is in their own words—their own thoughts, opinions and conclusions, rather than someone else’s. Secondly, students can avoid plagiarism by citing sources and putting anything used word-for-word from another source in quotations. Finally, when you paraphrase someone else’s words, be sure you change the original writing significantly and again cite the source (yes, even for a paraphrase). You should also cite your source for video and audio clips you find online according to your professor’s instructions.

Copyright violations from audio and video clips found online are a little trickier to prevent. After all, your professor will be expecting you to find and use videos you find online for certain projects. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education addressed some general guidelines when it comes usage of copyrighted materials in a classroom setting.

The article explains that students are free to use audio and video clips they find online in a closed classroom setting—meaning presentations done in class for your professor and classmates only. It’s also okay to use copyrighted audio and video clips in projects posted online in a password-protected area that is connected with your classroom setting, such as Blackboard and other online learning platforms, the article mentions. However, in a world where many students want to share everything they do online, we must be careful not to post academic work containing copyrighted material online outside of a classroom setting. For instance, if you are really proud of your project and decide to publish it somewhere else on the Web for all to see, you could end up in serious legal trouble, the article indicates.

If you do decide to use the works you create in class, you have two options to stay out of hot water. The first is to contact the owner of the content and get permission; the second is to use material available under a Creative Commons license, and strictly follow the guidelines for appropriate usage, the article concludes.

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