Thinking about Copyright and Creative Commons

In the faculty retreat we will discuss academic honesty and ethical source use. Often, we think about this primarily in regard to written work. With digital texts, and within more “traditional” texts, students also frequently use a range of media: images, audio, video, etc. It’s important that students have an understanding of how to ethically incorporate these materials as well – where attribution frequently differs and even the vocabulary is different. We talk copyright violations as opposed to plagiarism.

A note about copyright, one Hannah Lee was always sure to bring our attention to in the Student Multimedia and Design Center: copyright is intended “to promote creativity, innovation, and the spread of knowledge” (Article 1 Section 8, US Constitution). It should balance the rights of owners with users. This has changed over the last several decades, with copyright lasting longer and longer and failing to adapt and transform in the wake of new forms of knowledge and knowledge production. Still, it’s useful to think about the goals of licensing work when thinking about how writers might use it.

Below are resources that can serve as references or discussion points on intellectual property and copyright, particularly online. General resources are those I think are especially useful for both faculty and students (provide overviews, key terminology, useful breakdowns). Faculty-specific resources get more in-depth with the intricacies of these conversations; I have provided links to direct, primary resources as well as secondary scholarship. Student-specific resources talk more about writing and citation practices. 

I’d particularly recommend taking a look at Creative Commons – students can license their own work through CC as well as search for open access and CC-licensed resources through Creative Commons’ databases and google.

General Resources:

  • Creative Commons: Alternative copyright system. Includes a range of licensing options for protecting, monetizing, sharing, and deriving from CC-licensed works.
  • Multimedia Literacy Guide: This section of UD’s Student Multimedia and Design Center’s research guide offers not only resources on producing multimodal work, but handouts and suggested readings on copyright and fair use.
  • Eric Faden, “A Fair(y) Use Tale”: Video source explaining fair use using clips from various Disney films. Video is licensed under Creative Commons. You can also reference the transcript.

Faculty Resources:

 Student Resources:

Multimedia Creative Commons-Licensed Sources:

  • CC-Search: Broad search feature to find resources under different CC licenses.
  • Creative Commons Music Communities – Links to several hosting pages to find CC-licensed music to use potentially in your work.
  • Free Stock Images: has assembled a list of twenty websites that offer wide usage on images. Note that the author points out to do your own research to ensure the license still allows for the use you have in mind.

Looking for more?

Teaching Copyright has an extensive list of further resources, including books, articles, organizations, podcasts, videos, FAQs, quizzes, worksheets, and more.


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