Understanding Creative Commons

The Internet makes millions of images, videos, and audio clips available for students to use in their projects. Many of the resources available on the Internet, however, have some form of copyright protection. Under certain circumstances, students and educators can use these resources under the protection of the Fair Use provisions of the 1976 Copyright Law; however, students and educators do not have carte blanche to use these resources in any way they choose (below, we discuss some basic principles of this conceptually complex field.)

One strategy is to direct students to photos, music, video and other resources that have been posted online by people who want their work to be reused, remixed, and shared.

Creative Commons is an organization with a mission to “develop, support, and steward legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” Their core contribution to society is the development of a series of Creative Commons Licenses. These licenses allow copyright holders to share their work with “some rights reserved” in contrast to the “all rights reserved” position taken by most copyright holders.

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

Creative commons licenses can be understood as helping license holders answer three basic questions:

  1. Do you want others to be allowed to modify your work?
  2. Do you want others to be allowed to make commercial uses of your work?
  3. If you allow others to modify your work, do you want them to share alike (to make their derivative work allowed to be modified)?

Creative Commons offers a series of six licenses based on their answers to these questions. These licenses all have a legal code, a human-readable summary, and machine readable code so search engines can index Creative Commons licensed materials. There are six Creative Commons Licenses from which to choose.

One of the best ways for students to learn about Creative Commons licenses is to license their own work which they share on the Internet. One of the easiest ways for students to choose a license is through the License Chooser, which will automatically generate a license for students.

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons also hosts a search engine that searches for Creative Commons licensed materials: http://search.creativecommons.org/. The page provides access to seven different search tools: Google’s Web search for general materials, Google Images and flickr for images, blip.tv for video, jamendo for music, and SpinXpress and Wikimedia Commons for multiple media forms.

The Creative Commons search engine is particularly useful for finding “decorative” elements for multimedia presentations. If students need clip art, generic images, or background music for a presentation, the Creative Commons search engine is a great place to find materials that content creators *want* to have used and remixed.