An Introduction to Creative Commons

There are many challenges that we face in regards to the appropriate use of content online. Copyright can be so cumbersome and confusing, often depending upon context and purpose. This often leads to a situation of helplessness where people often give up and simply go ahead and use content with the knowledge that they are probably in violation of the original license. One solution to this is the use of Creative Commons.

Basically, Creative Commons is a set of licenses that allows the creator to give permissions for others to use and modify your content. As is explained on the main website:

The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web.

In total, there are six different licenses made up of three different variables: attribution, modification and commercialisation. Richard Wells has summed these differences up in a graphic:

Image via Richard Wells http://ipad4schools.org/2014/10/06/safer-schools-with-creative-commons/

The question that remains is where to find such content.

On the Creative Commons site, there are range of sites recommended for finding appropriate content:

Images

Google Images: This is often the first place that anyone goes to. There are so many options available to find the right image, such as colour, size and type. Problem is, not many people realise that most of the images that come up are copyrighted and should not be used so freely, especially in public and online. In ‘Search Tools’ you can adjust the ‘Usage Rights’. However, as Alan Levine warns, Google assumes that if a page has a Creative Commons license attached to it that all the media within is included, which is not always the case.

Flickr: An alternative to Google Images, Flickr is an image repository. Designed with two aims in mind – to make images easily available and provide a means for organising them – Creative Commons is very much at the heart of Flickr. Like Google Images, you can adjust searches in ‘Advanced’ to look for different licenses. In addition to this, there are a range of site that you can use that help find the right image. Compfight and PhotoPin are popular ones, while Photos for Class not only filters out inappropriate content (a big problem at times with Flickr), but also applies a citation to the image.

Pixabay: Unlike Flickr which collects both copyrighted and Creative Commons images, all the images at Pixabay are not only free, but do not require attribution, even for commercial applications. Frustrated with finding images, the creators made a site to collect together a wide range of images published under Creative Commons Public Domain deed CC0. The aim is to provide images that are ready to use for any project, either amateur or professional.

Open Clip Art Library: Like Pixabay, Open Clip Art provides a wide range of images that have been published under Public Domain. The belief is that by removing as many restrictions as possible, the clip art is able to be shared as freely and openly as possible.

For some more ideas, I recommend John Spencer’s post for a collection of sites that do not need any attribution. However, the catch is that many of these collections are not curated.

Video

Vimeo: A little bit like Pixabay, Vimeo offers a range of quality videos. In addition to this, there is a wide range of content you can search and download based on licensing.

Youtube: It is often an overlooked feature, but you can find videos on Youtube which you are able to modify and remix. This material is accessed and edited via Youtube Video Editor. The only catch is that Creative Commons CC BY license is the only option, which has its limitations.

Sounds

Soundcloud: Arguably the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere. In some respect, Soundcloud is to sound what Flickr is to images. Created by the community, you can find anything and everything from podcasts to samples. Like Flickr, you can easily search through content based on licenses. There are some interesting collections here, such as a whole lot of tracks posted by Moby for the soundtracks of non-commerical films.

Jamendo: Whereas Soundcloud is simply about sharing sounds, Jamendo is about providing music for free. Organised around genres, instruments and moods, it provides an easy way to find the right sound for the situation. One of the catches to the site is that it can be difficult to sort through tracks based on licenses, therefore you are often left checking the bottom of the page.

ccMixter: This is a community music remixing site designed to foster sharing with Creative Commons. Not only does it provide a wide array of music, samples and sound effects, but many of the tracks come split up into parts, designed to be reused.

YouTube: Like video, you can find a collection of Creative Common sounds in Youtube via Youtube Audio Library. Similar to Jamendo, you can search by genre, mood, instruments and duration. In addition to pulling pieces into your own Youtube creations, there is also the option to download them and use them elsewhere.

Freesound: A collaborative database of various Creative Commons licensed sounds, Freesound allows you to browse through sounds via tags and track names. Although you can easily listen, the only catch is that you need to create an account to download tracks.

General

Wikimedia Commons: A part of the Wikimedia family, its purpose is to make available public domain and freely-licensed media content to everyone.  All the content is either in the public domain or meets the definition of a free cultural work. Although the search options are not as easily definable as other sites, the wealth of content makes Wikimedia a gold mine.

Europeana: A collection of cultural artefacts from all over Europe. Sourced from different galleries, libraries, archives and museums, items range from books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings. What is good is that you can easily refine searches to only include certain licenses and types of media.

Internet Archive: A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software and music. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. As its purpose is not primarily for feeding the remix culture, if you find Creative Commons material declared you may use the content according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license. However, it can be a little finicky trying to find applicable content.


In addition to a range of websites, there is a growing trend of applications which help sources appropriate Creative Commons images for you. Some examples are Haiku Deck, Adobe Voice and Adobe Slate (all of which are also available on the iPad).

One of the catches is that many of these sites are often blocked at school. The reason being is that being places for people to add their own content, it can be very difficult to filter inappropriate material. This should not be an excuse for ignoring Creative Commons, rather something to consider.

For a more detailed explanation of Creative Commons, I recommend watching the following video:

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