AAEEBL Digital Ethics Principles v.2: version 2

Respect Author Rights and Re-use Permissions

ePortfolio creators should understand and respect author rights, best practices for re-use, and representation.  

ABSTRACT: Because ePortfolios ask creators to re-use text and media, they need a working knowledge of plagiarism, copyright, fair use, and licensing. Students should be ethical owners of their ePortfolios and engage in conversations about how to responsibly move artifacts into ePortfolios, particularly when artifacts represent professional or collaborative experiences or involve the representation of others. 

Strategies for applying this principle include…

  • Advocating for student ownership of ePortfolios and ePortfolio portability post-graduation.
  • Ensuring ePortfolio creators are aware of how the ePortfolio will be used by an institution or employer (e.g., for institutional assessment), and obtaining consent from students for this re-use.
  • Distinguishing among concepts related to plagiarism, attribution, citation, copyright, fair use, and licensing.
  • Demonstrating how to attribute sources according to disciplinary, professional, institutional, and cultural standards, as well as genre conventions, to avoid accusations of plagiarism.
  • Identifying situations in which ePortfolio creators can argue fair use within their institution/culture.
  • Becoming familiar with various licensing agreements regarding re-use of resources, and knowing how to apply an appropriate Creative Commons license to an ePortfolio to guide its re-use.
  • Being thoughtful in how to represent others’ identities and ideas, including the use of photos, collaborative projects, and work authored and owned by others. This includes sharing artifacts that disclose others’ personal information only when you have the legal right and personal permission to do so.
  • Considering how representing others in an ePortfolio can be shaped by social and cultural biases, and being rhetorically thoughtful in selecting and contextualizing artifacts. 
  • Asking professional organizations about using work completed in internships, employment, and work-for-hire before featuring these artifacts in an ePortfolio in case information is proprietary or protected. When negotiating these professional relationships, you should ask about featuring the work you are doing in your professional ePortfolio.
  • Providing specific information for students and educators who work with protected and/or vulnerable groups, such as children, patients, clients, etc., and who may include information about this work in their ePortfolios.


Scenario #1:

You are a student who is excited to design your ePortfolio. You decide to include artwork from your favorite street artist alongside your bio on the homepage. While the artwork does not have a re-use license at the bottom, you decide to use it anyway. You attribute each piece of art individually at the bottom of the page in APA format with a link to the artist’s website. However, when you show your ePortfolio to your educator, you are accused of breaking copyright law. 

You are confused—there’s a full citation at the bottom of the page. While much of your academic career has prepared you to navigate attribution and citation, very little time has been spent on copyright. Your educator asks you to reconsider the homepage design. Specifically, they ask you to reflect on the following questions: is the artwork used in such a way that you can argue fair use? Should you replace this artwork with artwork from the public domain or artwork with clearer re-use licensing? What are the potential risks if you keep the page’s design as-is?

After concluding that this artwork is protected by copyright and you are not using it in a way that suggests fair use, you redesign the page to include an open-access work instead. You still clearly attribute this work to its creator but know that you have permission to re-use it on your personal ePortfolio.

Scenario #2:

You are an undergraduate student in their senior year. You are creating an ePortfolio as you apply for elementary teaching positions. You plan to discuss your student teaching experience in a first grade classroom, specifically a lesson that you co-designed with the supervising educator. When including details about the lesson, you want to be clear about the role that you played while giving credit to the supervising educator. Additionally, you share how you will write about this experience with the educator and get her approval of how you represented her work on the project. 

As you start building this page in your ePortfolio, you realize that you would like to include photos of you teaching the lesson. You are worried about including images of young children without guardian permission, but you also know your audience will be engaged by seeing photos of you teaching. Instead of showing students’ faces, you focus on images where the educator is the only identifiable face (e.g., the students are faced toward the front of the room) or blur student faces and include a caption with the photo that explains why you made this ethical consideration.

Scenario #3:

You are an undergraduate in your senior year specializing in early industrial design. You are developing an ePortfolio as part of your senior capstone project. You plan to also use this ePortfolio in the job market. As artifacts, you include your sample designs across a range of project contexts and your theory of industrial design. 

While you want your employers to be able to view your work and ability, you also want to make sure they know which material is re-usable and which parts of your portfolio are not. In one of your classes, your educator discussed copyright and the use of Creative Commons licenses, and you understand their benefits. You add an appropriate Creative Commons license to your pages indicating to anyone who views your portfolio what material can be reused. You clearly state that all other parts of your portfolio remain under copyright.

Scenario #4:

You are an educator of an online course. You asked your students to make a public-facing ePortfolio to reflect on and connect their curricular experiences with extra-curricular experiences. One student is struggling with several components. They recently completed an internship, where they helped assess the health of chickens. They want to connect this experience to their pre-vet coursework in hopes that veterinary school application boards will see their passion for animal care.  However, without explicit instruction on ePortfolio literacy, they run into several problems: first, when they share a draft of the site with a former supervisor, they are told that they cannot share photos that show the chickens or their care from the company because their methods for chicken care are proprietary. Second, they have included several copyrighted materials, including a journal article that they completed a reading response to and a photo from a veterinary practice’s website. 

Ultimately, while they have been asked to complete an ePortfolio, they are lacking the knowledge and support needed to create an ethical and accessible ePortfolio. As their educator, you can help your students avoid these frustrating issues. First, use low stakes activities to research professional standards for sharing and representation in their disciplinary, professional, and national communities. Second, provide them with knowledge of copyright and open access resources to use when selecting decorative images to include.

For additional scenarios on this principle, see Slade et al. (2018).


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    2. Association of Research Libraries, Center for Social Media at American University School of Communication, & Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University Washington College of Law. (2012). Code of best practices in fair use for academic and research libraries. Association of Research Libraries. 
    3. Benson, S. R. (Ed.). (2019). Copyright conversations: Rights literacy in a digital world. ALA Editions.
    4. Brewer, M., & ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. (2008). Fair use evaluator. 
    5. Center for Media and Social Impact. (2020). Fair use, free speech & intellectual property. 
    6. Creative Commons. (n.d.a). About the licenses. 
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    12. National Council of Teachers of English. (2018, October 25). Code of best practices in fair use for media literacy education. 
    13. Poole, P., Brown, M., McNamara, G., O’Hara, J., O’Brien, S., & Burns, D. (2018). Challenges and supports towards the integration of ePortfolios in education. Lessons to be learned from Ireland. Heliyon, 4(11). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00899
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    15. Stanford University Libraries. (n.d.). Copyright and fair use
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    17. The University of Queensland. (2019). ePortfolio for students: Develop a showcase portfolio. The University of Queensland. 
    18. Thiede, M. (2018). The basics of copyright and fair use
    19. Thiede, M., & Zerkee, J. (2019). An active learning approach to teaching copyright essentials. In S. R. Benson (Ed.), Copyright conversations: Rights literacy in a digital world (pp. 141–158). ALA Editions.
    20. World Intellectual Property Organization. (2004). WIPO Intellectual Property Handbook. WIPO. 

You can view these and other references connected to this topic in our library, and export them to your own reference manager.

This document was created by the AAEEBL Digital Ethics Task Force.

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