What is Creative Commons?

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photo by Franz Patzig


Fair use guidelines enable teachers and students to use copyrighted materials within the classroom for direct educational purposes. But fair use seems restrictive and __can be confusing__. All of those wonderfully illustrative images found via Google search and pasted into that Oscar-worthy Powerpoint presentation cannot legally be shared back out on the Web, even with proper citation -- citation does not equal permission. As educators, it is our responsibility to teach students about the ethics of content gathering and use, whether for a research paper or a digital storytelling project.

(Do not despair -- we actually have broader fair use rights than many of us may realize -- we just have to understand some important guidelines. Legitimate fair use of media can be determined by criteria such as "transformativeness" and benefit to society -- see my "note about 'traditional' copyright" below for a phenomenal resource that can help educators de-mystify copyright).

Now, where was I? Oh, yes...

One of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 is the creation and sharing of user-created content, and tools like Flickr, YouTube, Scribd, Thinkfree, Archive.org (and hundreds of others) make uploading, sharing and obtaining digitized content a snap. But with the free exchange of content comes the responsibility of determining how it is shared, how it may be used, and how to properly credit the author or creator.

Enter Creative Commons, the best thing to happen to Copyright since, well, ever...

"Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally"
"__Creative Commons__ provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from 'All Rights Reserved' to 'Some Rights Reserved.'"

Creative Commons celebrated its fifth birthday in December 2007. Currently, there are millions of photos, books, songs, poems, artworks, videos and other media shared on the web under Creative Commons licenses, including this course. K12 Learning 2.0 is an example of how you can take a piece of information or a product (in this case, the original Learning 2.0 course) and 'remix' it to make it fit your needs, giving attribution to the original author.

One of the most exciting developments in Web 2.0/Creative Commons culture is the OER Commons -- a site where users can find and contribute to the collection of thousands of __Open Educational Resources__. The most highly-rated content in the OER Commons comes from the __MIT Open Courseware (OCW)__ project -- an online repository of free lecture notes, exams, and other resources (including, increasingly, audio and video) from more than 1900 courses spanning MIT's entire curriculum. MIT recently announced a subsection of OCW called __Highlights for High School__.

Cool, huh?

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¤ NOTE ABOUT "TRADITIONAL" COPYRIGHT: Creative Commons is an amazing evolution in copyright, but it does not magically erase the need for proper citation, and ethical use. Neither does it solve our confusion about "traditional" copyright, which still applies to most works or art and intellectual property. What to do, what to do? Well, I am glad you asked.

I am so excited to share an unbelievable resource I recently learned about: The Media Education Lab at Temple University has worked with a number of expert groups to develop a newly released __**Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Media Education**__, which "helps educators gain confidence about their rights to use copyrighted materials in developing students' critical thinking and communication skills." EVERY educator should read this guide, share it with colleagues and practice applying these guidelines thoughtfully with their students. These resources not only diminish copyright confusion, but provide educators and students with tools to help them fully exercise their fair use rights. The site provides case studies and teaching resources, too.

Discovery Exercise

Watch the two animations below to learn about the history and basic concepts behind Creative Commons.

Get Creative (6:37)

Creative Commons - Wanna Work Together? (3:00)


Write a blog post reflecting on how you think Creative Commons may affect you professionally and/or personally. Be sure to include "Thing 10" in your post title.

Some prompts:

  • Have you noticed the CC logo on any websites you visit? Did you wonder what it meant?
  • Do you think CC will impact the way students learn and create projects? How?
  • Do you use digital images, audio or video clips from the web in your teaching (or professional practice)?
  • Do you ever share content on the web?
  • Who owns your teaching materials?
  • What are some potential negatives for using CC?

Stretch Task

Check out some Creative Commons resources from the __OER Commons__, the __CC Content Directories__, or try out the __CC Search__ tool and see what you find. Extend the blog post above to share about your findings. Include a link to any resource you mention.