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Copyright and Accessibility: Creative Commons

Resources on copyright and accessibility

Creative Commons licenses, sometimes called CC licenses, provide free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, students and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use Creative Commons to change your copyright from "all rights reserved" to "some rights reserved." In other words, you can tag it "share," just like I tagged the Crash Course.

To learn more, please visit the Creative Commons section of the Copyright Crash Course.

What is Creative Commons?

Some Rights Reserved

Full copyright in a work exists from the moment you hit save, put pen to paper, or paintbrush to canvas. That copyright exists for your lifetime plus 70 years. That's a really long time for work to be locked up. Some creators may want total control over their creative works, but others may be interested in having their work built upon by others. Creative Commons (CC) licenses exist to facilitate that reuse.

Copyright is all rights reserved. Creative Commons is some rights reserved.

CC licenses work with traditional copyright to enable easier use of things you create, and allow you to reuse work from others. They do this by communicating, in a standardized way, the rights you want to share with others. Creative Commons licenses replace the individual negotiations for usage rights that traditional all rights reserved copyright requires. If you want to allow others to copy, remix, and share your work, there's a license for that. If you want others to do all of that, but not for commercial purposes, there's a different license for that. See Types of Licenses to learn more.

License Layers

Each Creative Commons license has three layers:

  • Legal code
  • A human-readable Commons Deed that is easy for non-lawyers to understand
  • Machine readable code

Each layer of the license helps a different audience understand what is allowed, and it makes the licenses easy to use.

Creative Commons Resources

  • CC Search
    Search over 300 million CC-licensed images.
  • Flickr
    Huge image site with functionality that allows you to limit your results to CC-licensed images.
  • The Noun Project
    Search millions of icons with CC licenses.
  • Openly licensed images handout
    UTRGV created a nice handout with a list of openly licensed image sites.
  • Unsplash
    Millions of high resolution images, most of which are free to reuse - even for commercial purposes.

These sites have images that are licensed for free use, but double-check copyright information before reusing.

Did you know that using music to "set a mood" in a video is generally not considered fair use? Use the sites below to find music that is licensed for reuse.

Video is tricky; many sites that are designed for free sharing may have copyrighted content. One Creative Commons-licensed video resource is Vimeo, specifically this linked page. You can also peruse this Google query for "creative commons" video.

With videos, its imperative to verify that the copyright holder is the one that uploaded the video, particularly for commercial works. Some TV shows, for example, may have full episodes available on YouTube for free by the copyright holder. The ad revenue allows for free sharing.

See the OER LibGuide for more information on finding CC licensed works for use in the classroom.


Creative Commons license logo indicating a broad Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

This page has been reworked from content from Copyright Crash Course created by Georgia Harper at the University of Texas, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.