Some Copyright Resources

Crossing the Copyright Boundary in the Digital Age

The OLD Way: Copyright, Fair Use

Let’s let some of our favorite Disney characters tell the story in this movie by Eric Faden.

A Fairly Use Tale:

The Current Thinking on Fair Use:

The Fair Use Blog:

The trouble with traditional copyright and fair use:

  • Here’s what the National Gallery of Art says:
  • Here’s what Wikimedia Commons says:
  • The Denver Library’s Western Collection: and their copyright statement:
  • The BBC and Wikipedia:

Which Sitting Bull is legal?

An OLD and NEW Way: Public Domain and Creative Commons

Here’s the good news: the Internet has made it much easier to access public domain materials and a new trend in copyright called Creative Commons makes it possible for educators to ignore all of the above and use materials for free, without permission, for all sorts of multimedia projects.

Public Domain

Materials in the public domain have always been available to educators for use in any way they wish. With the Internet, access to such materials are increased.

  • Copyright Free Images Copyright friendly images free for any use.
  • All the digital photos published on the National Archives website are in the public domain.
  • Public Domain Images Several thousand royalty free stock photos nicely organized in folders, free for personal and commercial use.
  • *Project Gutenberg: http://gutenberg.orgfor books
  • Yellowstone National Park has placed nearly 13,000 images in the public domain so they are available for use without permission.
  • The Library of Congress is a little harder as they don’t own copyright, but generally if the material was published before 1923, it is in the public domain. And, the Library of Congress just added over 3,000 photos to flickr, the photo sharing website: Most have no known copyright restriction.
  • Open Directory Listing of Public Domain Sites:

Creative Commons

But putting something in the public domain means you lose all rights to the work. The Creative Commons movement allows copyright owners to modify their rights in order to allow others to use their work in their own creations without getting permission.

The Creative Commons website is the place to start to learn more about these new kinds of licenses. It also has a search engine that allows users to find Creative Commons licensed materials.

Creative Commons Videos:

Video: Wanna Work Together?

Video: A Shared Culture OR YouTube:

Virtual Tour: Other Places to Find Copyright-Friendly Materials


The photo sharing website has two ways of thinking about the Commons. First, many flickr users assign Creative Commons’ licenses to their photos. The website does a great job explaining Creative Commons. short loans Second, Flickr is working with partners to provide access to public photo collections. This is called the Commons and includes photos from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the University of Washington along with many others.

Wikimedia Commons

From the same people who brought us Wikipedia, there is the Wikimedia Commons, a collection of audio, video and image files that are often available for use without permission under different kinds of licenses. Some of the materials are in the public domain, too. Wikipedia maintains a list of public domain images: (With all the proper caveats, of course!

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a vast clearinghouse for public domain and other copyright-friendly licenses. You can find lots of movies, music, and images. Here are a few of my favorite starting places at the Archive. WARNING: There’s a lot here. Be prepared to spend some time exploring at least during your first few visits. I’ve also found the general search to be productive if I’m in a hurry.

  • Browse the Open Source Audio section for lots of different kinds of music including nature sounds and other sound effects. Most are Creative Commons licensed.
  • Ephemeral films are nonfiction educational, industrial or promotional movies. I like to browse this collection by keyword.
  • The Education section includes lectures, links to open education archives, and much, much more.
  • The Texts section has access to books and more.

Digital Public Library of America

This portal for libraries, museums, and archives is a rich platform for exploration and education. While not all the materials are copyright friendly, there are lots of materials with no known restrictions.


  • Free Music Archive:
  • Mutopia:


Open Education Resources Commons

The OER Commons–Open Educational Resources–bills itself as a worldwide learning network and is part of a movement to make a wide variety of resources available freely to educators. Be sure to set up a free portfolio where you can store all your favorites from the site. Same Warning as the Archive: There’s A LOT here. Don’t get started unless you can devote some time to looking around.

Not Enough?? Head here for more links to resources.

Don’t forget: Anyone can contribute to the Creative Commons, so as your students develop their own multimedia materials, they can upload them to the Creative Commons website or the Internet Archive to share them with others.

Other Copyright Materials

Copyright Quiz

Want to see how much you know about traditional copyright? Go ahead…take the quiz:

Hall Davidson’s Copyright Quiz at

Now, read Davidson’s very detailed guide to traditional copyright:

He lays it out nicely and provides a link to a chart of the guidelines:

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