Creative Commons for Education

Google is to web search, as Kleenex is to facial tissue. In fact, having googled the answer myself, I found out that google, the verb, is a proper English term. It has been since 2006. according to this article on Wired.com.

We appreciate the efficiency and accuracy of the Google algorithm to get us the resources we want. Next, we select the ones relevant to our needs. Then, we decide what we want to use, and this is where it gets little bit tricky.

Are we simply referencing the materials the way I did in the introduction? Or are we lifting some parts of the material to include in our work? Or are we using some of the materials and trying to pass it off as our own? I can almost hear the emphatic no, in response to my last question. Yes, I agree that as professionals we will never pass off someone else’s work at our own.

What about digital images? Are they fair game? The fact that I can easily find them on Google, I should be able to use them, correct? The short answer is actually, no. Why not, you ask? Simply because, in most cases, the copyright for any piece of work is automatically accorded the creator of that artefact. So, unless the creator has given express permission for the free use of that piece of work, we are not at liberty to use it, let alone re-distribute it.

The same rules apply for audio and video content. Just because something is posted on YouTube, it doesn’t automatically become a free resource. Only the original content creator has the right to distribute the material, and you will need to obtain official clearance to use that video. For instance, if you find a snippet of a Netflix series, say ‘The Crown’ on a random person’s YouTube’s channel, you cannot download that video to use in your own video content.

Music is far more complex. A recording of your own guitar rendition of Santana’s ‘Smooth’ for example, cannot be distributed because the copyright for the music score belongs to the original composer.

There is, however, the rule of “fair use” which essentially allows you to share copyrighted content for purposes of discussion. Educators are also given some leeway to use copyrighted content, BUT only for your live lecture, not in any pre-recorded videos, or printed materials.

The next question it, how do we know what we can or cannot use? Using the above guiding principle – that content owners are automatically accorded copyright – unless you personally took the photograph of that gorgeous sunset, or you have paid for that photo to be taken, then you CANNOT use that image. You CAN, however us that image if, it is distributed under the creative commons licence.

CREATIVE COMMONS: Quick answers to some frequently asked questions.

What exactly is creative commons, or CC?
It is a rich resource of some 1.6 billion works (as of April 2021) ranging from multimedia assets to scientific research.

How do I search for such resources?
You can search for them at the CC website or you can install the CC search extension to your browser.

Are the resources any good?
That is a harder question to answer since quality can be relative. The reality is you will have to do a certain level of curation to get what you want. But this is true of any resource. There isn’t likely to be one that’s perfectly suited to your needs. Spend some time looking around.

Can I share my work under the CC licence?
Of course, you can! In fact, it is encouraged so the community grows! Here’s the link for more information.

Are all CC licences created equal?
No, they are not. There are at least six levels of CC licences, as listed below. Apart from the six listed below, there is one other CC licence which is CC0 for works that you can use in any which way you want to without the need for attribution.

Here’s a snapshot of the different levels of CC licences. Details here.


• a.k.a. CC BY
• by attribution
• you can remix, adapt, build upon and distribute (even commercially) with attribution
• in other words, free to us, but you MUST credit the original creator of that content

• a.k.a. CC BY-SA
• attribution – share alike
• follows the same as above, BUT the product you create must be licenced under identical terms

• a.k.a. CC BY-ND
• attribution – no derivatives
• you can reuse the work in its original form, AND credit the original creator
• so, you CANNOT adapt, remix, or build on the existing work

• a.k.a CC BY-NC
• attribution – non-commercial
• you can remix, adapt, build upon and distribute (NON-COMMERCIAL) with attribution
• the product you create does NOT need to be licenced under identical terms

• a.k.a. CC BY-NC-SA
• attribution – non-commercial – share alike
• you can remix, adapt, build upon and distribute (NON-COMMERCIAL) with attribution
• the product you create MUST be licenced under identical terms

• a.k.a. CC BY-NC-ND
• attribution – non-commercial – non derivatives
• this is the most restrictive
• you can use the materials as is, for non-commercial purposes

Apart from CC licensed resources, you can also use stock images which comes with Microsoft suite of products, or royalty-free resources from websites like

Hope this has been a useful resource. Drop me a note if you have other useful resources to share.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s