creative commons made simple

Creative Commons is a licensing system that identifies how content, such as music or images, can be legally used by others for free. It is a simple way to determine if an online file, made by someone else, can be included in a publication, video, or other project. A Creative Commons license informs others about what they can and cannot do when using another’s work.

Musicians, artists, and other content creators, use Creative Common tools to publicly share their work with others. They pick the conditions that users must follow. For example, they decide if a file can be adapted or used for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons or CC for short has several types of licenses. A coding system identifies permissions. For instance, CC-BY means that a person must give credit to the creator. Whereas CC-BY-ND means that a person must give credit to the creator AND cannot modify the original work. Thankfully, the letter codes make sense: SA is share alike, ND is no derivatives, and NC is non-commercial.

All CC licenses allow for personal use. Which is great for students, who want to use an audio or picture file they found on the Internet in their schoolwork. However, most CC licenses, except for CC0, do require the user give credit to the creator by including a link to the online source.

Refer to the table below for a Creative Commons License summary or visit About CC Licenses. This table is from the TechnoKids’ project, TechnoAd, which has students download free audio files to include in a video ad. TechnoKids consistently reminds students about intellectual property rights when accessing online resources.

creative commons
Creative Commons is a licensing system for content creators to share their work.

Why Do Your Students Need to Know About Creative Commons?

It is true, that according to Fair Use, students can use most files they find online in their schoolwork. Fair Use is a legal doctrine in the United States that allows people to use copyrighted material for certain purposes – one of which is education. So, you may ask “Is it really necessary to teach about CC licenses?”

The answer is…YES!

To transform your students into responsible digital citizens, they need to know about Creative Commons and the importance of respecting content creators’ rights. According to the DQ Institute, which has global standards for digital intelligence, Intellectual Property Rights Management is an essential component for future readiness. They state that students must posses the following knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values:

  • understand legislation and rights around ownership and remixing of digital creations
  • distinguish between creative use and appropriation of other’s work
  • distinguish between digital creations that can be legally downloaded and that which must be paid for
  • utilize strategies for protecting their own and other’s digital creations through a variety of tools and legislation
  • track and manage changes in their digital creations in order to protect assets from unauthorized change, use, and deviation
  • build trust, exhibit responsibility, self-respect, and respect for others by protecting their own digital creations and crediting others

4 Ways to Teach Students How to Comply with Creative Commons

Prepare your students for the future. Whenever completing a school assignment that requires online resources remind them about intellectual property rights. Below are four suggestions for keeping compliance simple:

1. Teach Students How to Filter Search Results by Usage Rights

Search engines offer tools to filter search results. For example, Google provides a filter called “Usage Rights” and Bing provides a filter called “Licensing”. Show your students how to use these tools.

  • Have students search for a picture using either Google Images or Bing Images.
  • Before looking at the search results:
    • In Google click the option, Tools. Click Usage Rights and pick Creative Commons licenses.
    • In Bing, click the Filter tool. Click License and pick an option.
creative commons search
Restrict an image search to filter results.

2. Bookmark Creative Commons Sound Sites

Provide students with a list of music platforms that post free audio files.

  • Uppbeat: free music and sound effects with no copyright restrictions
  • Free Music Archive: royalty free music to listen to, download, share or use in your own media
  • FreePD: search by music categories such as electronic, upbeat, or epic dramatic
  • Pixabay Music: search by keywords or pick from keyword suggestions

3. Bookmark Creative Commons Image Sites

Provide students with a list of image libraries that have royalty free images.

  • Pixabay: free photos and illustrations
  • Wikipedia: images include the CC license type
  • Flickr: sign up for a free account, share images, set licensing
  • Noun Project: large searchable collection of icons as well as photos

4. Explain How to Cite the Source

Teach your students how to credit other’s work. The attribution can appear as a caption below an image, a reference in a bibliography, credit roll at the end of a video, or simply as a set of Source links. It is good practice to include the following information:

  • title of work
  • author
  • source (website or link to original file)
  • CC license type if known
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