Copyright matters


Creative Commons and other Open Access materials

‘Open Access’ is a term indicating that the relevant work has been licensed by the copyright owner for use in some of the ways that otherwise might require their specific permission. Other terms you will come across include Open Source (OS), Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Course Ware (OCW), Open Content, etc.

Much more detail can be found in the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook at

Creative Commons (CC) is the most well known of the licensing systems used to express a copyright owner’s chosen terms of use such as ‘non-commercial’, ‘sharealike’, ‘non-derivative’, etc. The copyright owner can be approached for uses not included in a CC licence.

Many universities and other institutions and government bodies have mandated that their works be licensed with Creative Commons or equivalent Open Access terms of use; one of the earliest was MIT’s OpenCourseWare

More about Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a ‘some rights reserved’ licensing system allowing creators to release their works in less restrictive ways than those imposed by copyright legislation.

Every licence allows the user to, at least:

  • copy the work; distribute it; display or perform it publicly; make digital public performances of it and/or shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy

Beyond this, the various licences may allow the creation of derivative works, permit only non-commercial uses, etc.

Creative Commons licensing terms and permissions [PDF, 90kb]

Creative Commons licensed content and derivatives can be uploaded to LMS as well as to open websites, wikis, etc., but remember to check the specific details of each licence used.

Introducing Creative Commons licences: how they work, why they are useful, and how to apply a licence to your own work [video]

How to find and use Creative Commons licensed resources: videos, images, teaching materials, and more [videos]

Finding Creative Commons licensed materials

Free to Share:
Link to a variety of search engines at:

Sources of educational content

Open Educational Resources:
Creative Commons list:
Wiki Educator:
Open University:
Open Access Textbooks project:
Merlot II – multimedia resources:
Open Stax – text books:
Open Textbook Library:

Sources of CC images

Google Images: add 'Creative Commons' to your search term(s); check for any specific licence requirements
Yahoo Images: add 'Creative Commons' to your search term(s); check for any specific licence requirements
Flickr: add 'Creative Commons' to your search term(s); check for any specific licence requirements
Wikimedia: - all the images are CC licensed
Atlas of Living Australia: a collaborative, national project that aggregates biodiversity data, images, datasets, and more from multiple sources
Encyclopaedia of Life: over 2.9 million images depicting life on Earth
The Wellcome Institute: a range of collections including biomedical science and ancient manuscripts

Copyright-friendly image collections - not necessarily CC licensed but ok for educational use with no further permission required

Free Images:
World Images:
Getty Images:

Public Domain image collections - no copyright restrictions

Pixabay: public domain photos, vector graphics, and short videos
openclipart: public domain clipart
Burning Well:
Cool Notions:
Public Domain stock photos:
David Dailey:
Karen’s Whimsy:

There is no copyright in U.S. Government works, though there may be conditions of use:
e.g. NASA