What Do YOU Know About the Creative Commons?

Quick question:  The last time that you needed an image for a project, where did you get it from? Google, right?  That nifty little Images tab makes it SO easy to find just the right shot for your slide deck, doesn't it?

Here's the thing:  Pictures — just like text, music and video — are protected by copyright even when they're posted on the Internet.  That means there's a GOOD chance that when you grab a picture from Google, you're stealing it using it inappropriately. 

That's a lesson I learned the hard way, y'all.  A few years back I wrote a bit here on the Radical called A Lesson Learned from One Fat Ox.  In the original bit, I added a great picture of two oxen pulling a plow that I found in a Google image search.

A few days later, I got an email from the photographer asking me whether I'd already negotiated rights for using the image with her.  After a very uncomfortable conversation, she let me off the hook — but only after I agreed to teach my students a lesson about copyright protections for images. 

Since then, I've worked hard to learn as much as I can about the Creative Commons — which is a form of copyright protection that content creators who WANT to freely share their work have started to embrace. 

Need an introduction to Creative Commons licenses? Then check out this video from the minds behind the Creative Commons:


When I introduce Creative Commons to my middle school students, though, I typically use this Commoncraft video.  It's a little more approachable and easier to understand for tweens:



So where can you find Creative Commons content? 

While there are a ton of different online sources for content that creators are sharing freely, my favorite is Flickr Creative Commons mostly because Flickr is such a popular photo-sharing website that there are almost always dozens — if not hundreds — of really good pictures to choose from no matter what topic I'm building a presentation around. 

Of course, Flickr is also almost always blocked at schools.  That makes Morguefile useful.  While the collection at Morguefile isn't nearly as large — and the quality of photos isn't nearly as high — at least it's not blocked by school Internet filters, right?

The Search feature on the Creative Commons website is also incredibly useful simply because it allows users to search for Creative Commons content in several of the most popular online warehouses. 

While it's not TECHNICALLY a search engine itself, it will automatically send your request for Creative Content to search engines like Google and return results in a new window.

That is a HECK of a lot easier than teaching tweens how to sift through the advanced settings features in search engines looking for the right filters to get content that is available for reuse. 

In the end, teaching kids to use digital content responsibly is probably one of the most important lessons in today's digital world, don't you think?  After all, visually driven mashups are probably the most common type of product being created by anyone who is working to change minds or be influential.

It's hard to be influential, though, when you're stealing other people's stuff!


Related Radical Reads:

Five Tips for Creating PowerPoint Slides that Won't Bore Your Audiences



14 thoughts on “What Do YOU Know About the Creative Commons?

  1. Kristen Beck

    Thank you for the information on You Tube Bill! I really appreciate all you do to help teachers!

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Thanks for pointing out WPArt, Lisa!
    One of the barriers that we face with tools and services like Flickr is the chance that kids will stumble onto inappropriate content. Having sources where that risk isnt even possible will make the Creative Commons conversation a lot more approachable for schools and districts.
    Rock on,

  3. Endymom

    Sat through a session at NCTies that included many of these sites. Another one was http://www.wpclipart.com/. WPClipart is an ever-growing collection of artwork for schoolkids and others that is free of copyright concerns as well as safe from inappropriate images.
    I have also suggested teachers create a block on their Moodle pages for links to these sites so students can always know where to look.
    Lisa Thompson

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Katelyn,
    Jazzed that my post was helpful to you!
    And while teachers and students who are using content for educational purposes often are given broad leeway in using even copyrighted content, that drives me nuts. Its becoming easier and easier to find Creative Commons content — so the way I see it, we ought to expect our students to start using it whether copyright rules are relaxed for students or not.
    The fact of the matter is that our kids arent going to be protected by fair use policies forever. Why not get them started with responsible content practices now.
    Hope this makes sense,

  5. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Kristen,
    Good questions about YouTube. There is a TON of copyrighted content posted there. That means SOMEONE is breaking the rules.
    For you, though, showing a clip in your classroom — or pointing kids to a link that you want them to watch while they are completing an activity — isnt breaking any rules.
    If you downloaded a video, clipped a bit of it, and then created a new final product out of it — think a Best Of compilation of Man v Food clips that you assemble yourself — then you would be breaking rules.
    Does this make sense?
    By the way: Video makers are starting to use Creative Commons licenses too! And YouTube allows you to search for videos that are licensed Creative Commons. Mostly, those licenses apply to people that are creating new content out of other peoples original works, though. Theyre not necessarily for people who are simply consuming content.
    Hope this helps,

  6. Katelyn Gill

    Hi Bill, I am a student in EDM 310 at The Univerisity of South Alabama. Until reading your post I had never thought about using google images for educational purposes such as in blog posts for class as stealing. Thank you for the eye opener there and sharing other ways to use different images on the web. I hope to use what I have learned from your post to my future students in my own class as well. Thanks again!
    -Katelyn Gill

  7. Kristen Beck

    What about You Tube videos from shows like Man vs. Food (travel channel)? I create real life math problem-solving activities with my kiddos that I link to You Tube videos. I also did a group of problems based on the Kiva website and used different banks interest rates, since it is a website is that okay?

  8. Bill Ferriter

    Sherry wrote:
    Up untill reading this article I was under the assumption that in education one could use anything off the internet as long as it was for instruction purposes.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    You know, Sherry, you’re right: Educators have a lot of leeway in using content under “fair use” rules written into copyright law.
    But here’s the thing: Finding Creative Commons content isn’t really all that hard — and most of the time, the Creative Commons content I find is as good as (or better) than the copyrighted content.
    So I’ve decided that even though I CAN use content that is copyrighted in classroom presentations, I’m not going to. I always use Creative Commons content instead.
    That way, I can model the kind of responsible practices that our kids will need to master when they leave schools. Unless they become teachers, they won’t be operating under “fair use” rules forever!
    Does this make sense?

  9. Sherry Rooks

    Really, I had no idea. Up untill reading this article I was under the assumption that in education one could use anything off the internet as long as it was for instruction purposes.
    After reading your article I went to the Creative Commons site and explored a bit. I must say I found it rather confusing. It is an area that I must explore more completely.
    One thing is for certain, this could be an area of complete chaos for an instructional designer if they are not careful!

  10. Bill Ferriter

    Those were good times, werent they Nancy!
    Quite the cool learning lesson for me, though. Ive shared that story with students for years and it opens their eyes every time.
    And yep — you are the Morguefile finder. That is a great tool largely because its never blocked by schools.
    Anyway — hope youre well. I miss you.

  11. Casey Rimmer

    In the new google presentation maker, if you search to add an image, it will only return images labeled for re-use! Another way for students to find cc images with ease!

  12. Nancy Flanagan

    Oh, I remember that (smiling). Thanks for the great piece–I learned something new about CC, a tool I use regularly, thanks to you. And I think it was me who turned you on to Morguefile, right?

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