Ian Upton
Artist | Technologist | Teacher

Using Creative Commons Practically and cutting the HASSLE!

I created this post as a reply to  Sandra Hodges question. But then I thought it was such an important topic - especially when we are being asked to create stuff (which can be potentially 'published' - think flipped classrooms and whatnot) that I would start a thread where I hope we can discuss using materials we source on the web legally and practically and WITHOUT HASSLE! And maybe even share some of these resources.

Using images / video / sound whatever is a key element of teaching practice and (in my experience anyway) so many see 'just copying something off the web' as the way to go. Most of us know this is basically wrong but when you try to engage with the 'doing it properly' the overheads can be overwhelming - and as busy people well...

But I also have a view that if we as teachers engage in these 'just copy' practices we are doing a disservice to our students. As they see it as ok too - inside and outside of the classroom. Now I do not want to get into the debate about if this is right or wrong. Or if all resources should be free for all. I am not a lawyer or a politician (and I have no intention of being one). But I do think we need some common sense  here and CC gives us a real option. But there is a problem...

My role is working in a University. My department provides academic recognition and academic development courses - so in effect our students are teachers. I was recently asked to create a course showing where we - as educational professionals - could use third party resources (keeping us legal) and demonstrate good practice within the wider context of our courses.

First. I have found this video to be extremely useful: With the exception of the middle 'combinations bit' which I think - although a great reference - gets a bit overwhelming (and the point I see my audience blipping out) the rest is clear and meaningful. For example showing how a s student can use a CC image on a tee shirt for friends or a class team or something but making the point the image needs accreditation and cannot be sold. Wonderful!

I then get my group to imagine they are a musician or artist or photographer (in ideal situations I ask them to bring something special they have created) and then turn the tables asking them to create a CC licence under which they would be happy for that item to be used. Working in a Uni many colleagues are happy to share resources non commercially but would feel pretty miffed if something they created was used by someone else in a way out of the spirit in which they shared. To make a sack of money for example. The CC 'choose a license' tool webpage is great. Tick the boxes and there is your licence. You get something techie to embed and - even better - some plain old ordinary text you can add to a document. Now you can share whilst being legally protected. I find this exercise really helps people see and understand CC. So far so good!

But now comes the problem. Everyone leaves fired up and start looking for stuff the can use legally and in good spirit and then hit a wall. Its easy enough to find CC resources but how do you do the right thing re the attribution? Flickr for example. Brilliant images. Brilliant resource! But here is a challenge. Check out this CC Licensed picture. But how the heck do you credit this if you want to use it on a PowerPoint or a handout document? If you dig around you will find 'share'. Under that code snippets for websites and blogs and things but nothing that gives you a simple and legal 'copy and paste' text. For my colleagues I created a 'how to'. This ended up being a real faff and nearly half a page of steps to do. Now check out this page. In my view these guys have got it right. This is a music site with CC licensing. Great resource for my Premiere Pro students who need soundtracks. You find a tune. You can download and - click that MORE button and there is the attribution text. Ready to copy paste and go.

So my comment here is - until we make this stuff copy and paste - things like CC are a great idea. But add hassle and it becomes something we don't use as second nature. My request to Flickr - and the CC sites out there. Don't just use CC as a vehicle to drive users through your site. Give us something we can copy and paste and use on offline stuff too!

Also. Would be pretty cool if we could collect together a list of useable CC sites / resources. I know. I know! You may be reading this thinking 'haven't you heard of this that or the other resource that does exactly that'? Well - my answer -  probably not! And if I don't know about this fab resource then it is probably true for others reading here too! - so please share!

And again thank you Sandra Hodges for raising such an (in my opinion) important topic.


PS. I added all the Adobe Products as this does effect all in one form or another. Then I removed them as it looked a bit silly! :-)

PPS. Anyone interested if I turn these notions into an EDEX Lesson Resource?

Comments (8)

Write a reply...
or Join for free to view all comments and participate in the discussion.

Rebecca DeWeese

Posted on 5/27/17 5:07:10 PM Permalink

I agree this is a very important topic and one that I have struggled with a bit as I begin to teach graphic design. Students want to copy everything from the internet without thinking. These resources are helpful and I have used them as well. If you find/make a resource list of CC websites let me know. That would be great for my class too!

Ian Upton

Posted on 5/28/17 7:16:56 AM Permalink

Re 'resource lists', ​An interesting development, I think, is the new breed of applications that embrace CC and just make it work. Adobe Spark, for example. Here you can search for images and the application handles all of the accreditation behind the scenes.

You choose pictures, it does the rest. I would so encourage more developments like this!

Also, check out my ​EDEX Creative Commons Resource. This is a lesson plan and Adobe Spark student resource introducing and supporting CC, hopefully in a meaningful way!

Arthur Wohlwill

Posted on 8/3/15 3:04:50 PM Permalink

Perhaps someone can help me on a very related issue. There is a site ( in which you can edit (Mainly trim) and insert questions into youtube and some other videos. When I mentioned this to someone, they said I might get into trouble using this site. Looking at the sites legal info I found this:

"By using our site, you hereby declare that all Content uploaded into and/or created in our site by you is free from any breach, included with respect of intellectual property of any third party.".

Videos created by this site for on-line classes would be great, but I am not sure I should be putting anything on an LMS. Even using these in a class seems risky.

Any advice? Thanks!

Ian Upton

Posted on 4/21/15 9:41:15 AM Permalink

Wendy Sandstrom

Posted on 4/9/15 1:45:21 PM Permalink

I found this thru your post on the ACL group page. Great topic! I too, love the CC 'choose a license' tool. For some, myself included I think anything with copyright gets confusing for people...Having a discussion like this will help clear up a lot of that, however. I had not seen that incompetech website, but you are right that is a convenient resource AND has the CC licensing info to use! I would be very interested if you made a lesson resource here on the Ed Exchange! Mostly to make sure I am using this stuff correctly, but also for any future staff or students I may work with...Thanks for sharing! Like Eliot stated, lots of good points! (and examples)

Ian Upton

Posted on 4/9/15 2:31:55 PM Permalink

Hi Wendy,

Glad you found the post useful. I do actually run a short session on CC so could turn this into a lesson resource for EDEX. Watch this space :-)


Eliot Attridge

Posted on 3/27/15 1:00:03 AM Permalink

Good discussion- a lot of very good points. One area that I also think is worth exploring with students is the use of images for parody / comedy purposes. In most parts of the world the copyright allows using images / video clips in this way. However, that does not mean that students can just rip any image / video and call it parody / comedy. Creating memes (part of the digital imaging course) is an example. Many memes are based on a shot from a film or photo of a star which leads to the meme (e.g. Frozen - Let it Go image, Sean Bean 'One does not simply...' meme from LoTR are cases in point).

Getting the students to think carefully about how the image will be used along with the thought processes as to why the image is necessary in the first place would be a very good learning experience.

Ian Upton

Posted on 3/27/15 4:56:03 PM Permalink

Agree Eliot. And when leading discussions on stuff like copyright and Creative Commons and whatnot, those 'exceptions' often pop up. 'Parody', 'Fair Use', 'Ok for Students' etcetera etcetera. All interesting stuff and all fundamentally grey...

I also believe these 'special cases' differ depending on your country too. Here is a useful link that gives a UK perspective: 10 Copyright Myths. While hunting for that page I found an American focus version too: 10 Big Copyright Myths.

For my courses, following an 'Ah but this...' and an 'Ah but that...' discussion (which I encourage), I tell a story!

I ask the students to imagine they were creating a video for a company, someone who had contracted them as an expert. You had created a film and sourced a soundtrack. It is all very successful, they pay you well, and the company invest a lot of money using it as part of their promotion.

After six months you get a call. It is the company. They tell you "We have been contacted by someone who is planning to take us to court if not paid a lot of money. Apparently the soundtrack breaches their copyright...".

I then ask the students to imagine they had sourced this music and used it believing they were safe under one of these 'greyer' copyright issues. Would they really feel comfortable telling the company 'not to worry' as it is a 'grey issue' and there is a good chance in court they should win? And how would they think the company respond having employed you as the expert? !!!

My advice to students is, although there may be 'interesting to discus', grey exceptions, where it may be ok to use some materials, when it comes to the real world keep it absolutely legal. If unsure do not use!