How to find free, online content that you’re allowed to re-use

A couple of weeks ago, Jason explained how ProfHacker finds most of the images that we use on this site: we search the photo-sharing site Flickr for pictures that have a particular kind of Creative Commons license.

There are several different permutations of these licenses, which are designed to provide a creator with more flexibility than copyright provides without requiring the creator to give up copyright. They’re also a pretty convenient bit of information for people looking to “remix” materials originally created by someone else and then shared online with a license that allows remixing.

As you might imagine, images are only one sort of digital content available online with Creative Commons licenses: one can also find CC-licensed audio, video, and text documents of various kinds. “Exactly how,” you may well ask, “does one find this wealth of materials?” Well, conveniently inquisitive artificial interlocutor, I’m glad that you asked because I’m about to explain just that.

Option 1:

This isn’t exactly a search engine but rather a one-stop shop for using other search engines and specifying your desire for CC-licensed material. Just enter your search terms at the top and specify what you’re going to do with the materials you find: do you have a commercial purpose? do you plan to modify what you find? The search results should be only materials licensed for those particular needs. (The instructions advise you to double check just to be sure.)

Option 2:

From the project description: “DiscoverEd is an experimental project from ccLearn which attempts to provide scalable search and discovery for educational resources on the web.” There’s great potential in this project, but currently (I believe) one is likely to find more CC-licensed material appropriate for teaching (or research) using Option 1 simply because DiscoverEd is still relatively young (having just launched in July) and because the amount of material prepared explicitly for educational purposes and also CC-licensed is likely to still be fairly small. (I could be wrong, mind you. I haven’t test-driven DiscoverEd extensively.)

Want to know more about Creative Commons?

Watch this:

Or read these:

Open Access and creative common sense,” a 2004 interview with Lawrence Lessig in Open Access Now.

A Call For Copyright Rebellion,” by Steve Kolowish – InsideHigherEd (6 Nov. 2009).

Free Culture and Remix, by Lawrence Lessig. (Each book is available for purchase, or for free PDF download under a Creative Commons license).

CC licensed flickr photo by karindalziel

Return to Top