Copyrighting in the instructional design field

Photo by Judit Peter on

We all want to create interesting content.  And with the ubiquitous nature of information and the internet, it is easy to be tempted to find content that is readily usable. This could be in the form of videos, music, or even just images. The problem is that this content may be protected by copyright law. Using this content has the potential to open the instructional designer as well as their clients up for litigation.

While there is a plethora of content available on the web today, The instructional designer must be aware of what is open source and what is protected. So how do you find content or get permission to use what is copyrighted?

you can

  • Ask for permission-you can privately message the content creator and let them know you would be interested in using the content in your project.
  • Seek content on the creative commons-The instructional designer is to search for material that is licensed under a creative commons copyright. This allows for the distribution, use, or manipulation of the original content. The instructional designer must be aware, however, of any stipulations placed on the license. For instance, you may not be allowed to manipulate the original content, or you may be required to cite attribution.
  • Use open-source image sites- copyright laws are not just protective of text and videos. Pictures, photographs, and memes may also protect by copyright laws. There are a few sources, however, that the Instructional designer can use to find free-use images. Similar to the creative commons Pixababy and Unspash are two such sites.
  • Find fair use material- Aside from the creative commons, you can search the web for what is known as fair use material. this is material in which either there was never copyright registered or the copyright protection has passed due to age.

    The importance of copywriting your own work

as an instructional designer, your learning content is your intellectual property. As an instructional designer, your intellectual property is your livelihood and should be protected. This becomes of premiere importance when you are developing content for a client. In essence, they are paying you for the rights to that content. If it is not properly copyrighted, the client may lose their investment in the product.

Copywriting your work

  • In tool copywriting tools-The nice thing about producing work in platforms such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word is that you have the ability to generate a copyright symbol directly in the program. 
  • Apply for copyright- You can register your work with the US copyright office.
  • Legal work- hire a law firm specializing in copywriting

What to do if your copyrighted material has been violated

You have a few options if you come across your property being used without your permission. Many sites, such as Google, allow you to fill out a Legal removal request in which the site will then remove the content from being hosted. You may also seek legal action as you may be due compensation.

Integrity and ownership

As instructional designers, it is important to remember that we are usually working with a client. Most times that means that the client will be the one retaining ownership of the rights to what you produce. As designer we protect their investment and integrity by utilizing and respecting copyright laws. 



Arshavskiy, M. (2017, February 11). Copyright protection in elearning design: What you need to know to protect your work. eLearning Industry.

Costa, A. (2018, July 27). Copyright and intellectual property in instructional design. eLearning Industry.

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