4.3 Finding and Reusing CC-Licensed Work

The commons of CC-licensed and public domain works is a plentiful resource available to all of us. When you draw from it, remember to give credit to the creator and follow the other relevant licence terms.

Learning Outcomes

  • search for and discover CC-licensed works
  • give proper attribution when reusing CC-licensed works

Big Question/Why It Matters

There are more than a billion CC-licensed works on the web. How do you find what might be useful to you? And once you do, what do you need to do when you reuse it?

There are several different ways to go about discovering CC-licensed works. Search engines can help you search across the web, or you can target particular platforms or sites. When you find a work to reuse, the most important thing to do is provide proper attribution.

Personal Reflection/Why it Matters To You

Think about what CC-licensed works you have seen or interacted with over the years. How did you find them? Did you know how to attribute the author if you shared the work?

Acquiring Essential Knowledge

When you are seeking CC licensed works to reuse, there are several strategies to consider. One good starting point is CC Search, which is a tool that lets you search 12 major repositories of CC content online. Creative Commons is currently working on a project to improve the search tools it offers to help people discover works in the commons. Check out the prototype of a new version of CC Search that lets you create and save lists of works you like and includes a tool that enables you to give attribution with a single click.

These search tools only scratch the surface of what is in the commons. Many platforms that enable CC licensing of works shared on their sites also have their own search filters to find CC content, like OER Commons.

If there is a particular type of content you are looking for, you may be able to narrow down particular sources to explore. Wikipedia offers a fairly comprehensive listing of many major sources of CC material across various domains.

You can also search for works under a particular CC licence. Take a look at the Creative Commons overview of each licence that includes examples of projects and people using those licences, such as works placed into the Public Domain using CC0.

Reusing CC Content

When you find a CC work you want to reuse, the single most important thing to know is how to provide attribution. All CC licences require that attribution be given to the creator. (Remember that unlike the CC licences, CC0 is not a licence but a public domain dedication tool, so it does not require attribution in its terms. Nevertheless, giving credit or citing the source is typically considered best practice even when not legally required.)

The elements of attribution are simple, though generally speaking, the more information you can provide, the better. People like to understand where CC licensed works come from, and creators like to know their names will remain attached to their works. If an author has provided extensive information in their attribution notice, retain it where possible.

As mentioned in Section 4.1, the best practice for attribution is applying the “TASL” approach.

  • T = Title
  • A = Author
  • S = Source
  • L = Licence

The attribution requirements in the CC licences are purposefully designed to be fairly flexible to account for the many ways content is used. A filmmaker will have different options for giving credit than a scientist publishing an academic paper. Explore this page about Best Practices for Attribution on the CC wiki. Among the options listed, think about how you would prefer to be attributed for your own work.

Creative Commons is also exploring ways to automate attribution. Take a look at this page of results from the CC search tool. Click on a couple of different photos to see how attribution is given, and experiment with the “copy credit as text” and “copy credit as HTML” functions.

The other main consideration when copying works (as opposed to remixing, which will be covered in the next learning unit) is the NonCommercial restriction. If the work you are using is published with one of the three CC licences that includes the NC element, then you need to ensure you are not using it for a commercial purpose.

Remember, you can always reach out to the creator if you want to request extra permission beyond what the licence allows.

4.3 Final remarks

Attribution is arguably the single most important aspect of Creative Commons licensing. Think about why you want credit for your own work, even when it may not be legally required. What value does attribution provide to authors, and to the public who comes across the work online?