Digital and Open Tools and Approaches
What Does the Law Say?
Copyright & the US Constitution
Think back to the last time you completed a multimedia project. Did you use an image or music from the internet? Is it free to use if you find it on the internet? Actually, no. Did you know that anytime someone creates something you can touch, see, or hear (artwork, photograph, an essay, etc.) it is automatically granted a copyright? A copyright is a protection on a work that gives the creator the sole right to determine what happens with their work. The Copyright Act of 1976 has its basis in the US Constitution. The Framers included a provision for protecting works because they wanted us to be creative. Did you know that this even applies to the things you create? As soon as you create something tangible, it is protected by US Copyright law. No special trip to Washington DC required.
Fair Use Factors
But what about when your teacher assigns you a project? Does this mean you can no longer use stuff found online since it is protected by copyright? The good news is that the law does allow for exceptions to the rule since people like students, teachers, and journalists need access to items to be able to do their jobs. These exceptions to the rule are called fair use factors. There are certain rules that must be followed in order for fair use to be applied.
Watch the video Copyright and Fair Use Animation by Common Sense Education. As you watch, identify each of the factors that qualify something as fair use.
Does fair use allow you to use anything you want online? That can be a gray area. The best protection you can give yourself is to know exactly what the creator wants. In the next section, you will explore Creative Commons, a system that allows creators to customize their wishes!
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons Defined
What is Creative Commons? Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides different types of licenses that can be assigned to creative works to help people understand how to share, remix, or even profit from using. The benefit to using Creative Commons is that you know exactly what the owner of the content wants for his or her creation.
Creative Commons Licenses
Creative Commons allows different types of licenses that range from very open licenses (where you can use the content however you wish) to very narrow licenses (which may have a lot of restrictions. Watch the video Creative Commons Kiwi posted on Common Sense Education. As you watch, identify the types of permissions that each Creative Commons license grants.
- Which license is the most open?
- Which license is the most restrictive?
Exploring Creative Commons Licenses
Now it is time to see Creative Commons licenses in action. For each of the following websites, determine the following:
- Can you change the item in any way?
- Can you make money from it?
- Can you change the type of license attached to it?
If you need a reminder on what the licenses mean, check out About the Licenses on the Creative Commons website.
As a student, one thing to get in the habit of doing is providing an attribution for every source that you use, including Creative Commons licensed items. Most require an attribution as indicated by a CC BY license.
Visit the webpage Use & Remix on the Creative Commons website. Under the picture of cupcakes on a green tablecloth, you will find an example of an appropriate attribution. What are the types of content that the author provides?
An appropriate attribution will include the title of the work, the person who created it, a link to the item, and the Creative Commons license.
Remember, it is a best practice to provide an attribution for everything that you use that someone else created. If you can’t locate one or more pieces of information for the attribution, do your best to provide what information is there. In the next section, you will learn how to create your own Creative Commons license.
How Can I Create my Own Creative Commons License?
Why Include a License?
If you have an interest in sharing your work so that others can use it, add a Creative Commons license to your products. By adding a license, you make it easier for other people to know how to use your work and contribute to a growing community of inspired creativity.
Create Your Own
Visit Creative Commons License Features and answer the questions. Do you want other people to be able to remix or change your work? Do you want other people to keep the same license you have? What about giving other people the option to profit from your work? Once you decide on your preferences, Creative Commons will generate the license you can copy to your work.
Try this now with something you have already created. Remember to include your name if you want people to attribute you.
Make attaching a Creative Commons license to your work a regular habit, especially for projects that you create and share online.
How do I Find Creative Commons Licensed Items?
Locating Creative Commons Licensed Items
Now that you know how easy it is to create and share Creative Commons licensed work, how can you find those materials for your own research?
One place to start is the Creative Commons Search page. On this page, you can choose a service that offers Creative Commons licensed items according to the type (images, music, video, mixed media). Popular services on this page include:
- Google Images
- Wikimedia Commons
- And more!
Another extensive list of Creative Commons licensed search options is the Free Media Library published by Penn State Media Commons. The website is organized into categories with various services for each: Audio, Images, & Video
For additional resources on music, visit Legal Music for Videos on the Creative Commons website.
A great resource for school projects is Photos for Class. This website not only provides Creative Commons licensed images, but it provides a citation for you as well.
Do you still have the urge to open Google and start there? Bookmark the Google Advanced Image Search page. Here you can search for an image and identify the usage rights of the images you want.
Explore the Resources
Choose one or more of the links above to explore. Try out the different sites by typing in a search query. You may want to use search terms from a previous project you completed or search your favorite hobby.
Which site(s) do you like the best? Which site(s) do you think it will be easiest to remember to use when you do research? Bookmark or jot down your favorites.
As a reminder, any resource that you use should include an attribution. An appropriate attribution will include the title of the work, the person who created it, a link to the item, and the Creative Commons license.
What is the Public Domain?
Defining the Public Domain
You may have noticed during your exploration of Creative Commons licensed resources the label CC0. What does it mean? A CC0 license means the creator of the product has given up all rights to their work and the product is now part of the public domain. If an item is in the public domain, that means you can do whatever you want with the work. Some items are automatically in the public domain, like government resources. Items also go into the public domain once their copyright expires.
Locating Public Domain Items
Many of the resources you explored in the previous section contained public domain items. The following links provide lists of public domain resources as well:
- Online Sources for Finding Works in the Public Domain, Read Write Think
- Free, Open, and Public Domain Resources, SUNY Empire State College
- Photos & Multimedia, National Park Service
- Public Domain Music, Public Domain Information Project
To search specifically for government resources, try an advanced search in Google. You can type in your search terms, select the usage rights, and identify in site or domain that you only want government resources. Type .gov into the site or domain box. Try it now.
As a reminder, any resource that you use should include an attribution, even if it is in the public domain. An appropriate attribution will include the title of the work, the person who created it, a link to the item, and the Creative Commons license.
The following are additional resources that may be helpful when instructing on copyright, fair use, Creative Commons, and the public domain.
- What is Creative Commons and Why Does it Matter, Common Sense Education
- The Right Stuff: Teaching Kids about Copyright, Common Sense Education
- Copyright and Fair Use Lesson Plans, Media Education Lab
- Curriculum, Teaching Copyright
- 5-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators, Edutopia
- Intellectual Property, Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything
This article is adapted from Creative Commons: Taking Ownership of Creativity by Tracy Cramer and is reprinted here under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.