Taking a first step into Creative Commons Licensing


Bates Motel (Flickr) by Nick Kenrick CC BY 2.0

Okay, so I thought I’d try my hand at creating a blog post that tackles the daunting task of copyright…

oooohhh *cue spooky music*…

At first I was like ‘ahhh stuff it’, not only does that look hard (and come on, let’s admit it, kinda boring) but I can just use my own photos right? I have  almost 20,000 photos just taking up space on my hard-drive, I’m sure I can find one to suit each occasion… right??? Well, let’s see what I can find in my photos that is as appropriate as the above image for representing something daunting, scary and unknown.

Blue Ghost, authored by J S Camilleri is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 4.0

Okay, so this image is kind of scary. But really it doesn’t actually convey what the first image did, which was the feeling of entering into something unknown and possibly treacherous. It’s just sort of weird and unrelated.

Using someone else’s work in this occasion was not only easier (it took me about ten minutes of searching through my own photos to find something, compared to typing ‘spooky house’ into Flickr and finding an image in about thirty seconds) but it was also way more effective in conveying what I mean. So I’m no longer putting it off and pretending that copyright doesn’t exist.



Here is my simple 3-step process to using Creative Commons for the digital novice.


Step One: Finding Media 

Robbery not allowed by Anders Sandberg (CC BY 2.0)

It is important to keep in mind that you can’t just use anything you want. That is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. You can only use media where the creator has licensed it under Creative Commons for your intended use. Otherwise you are stealing and it is against the law.


Well, luckily people all over the world are creating media content and licensing it for use by others AND it is actually very easy to find. You can find media for use on a variety of websites, but if (like me) you are just starting out it is probably easiest to use the Creative Commons website. Not only does this explain copyright and Creative Commons in Australia, but it provides links to sites with databases full of media that is licensed for your use.

Step Two: Understanding the License 

Copyright license choice by opensource.com CC BY SA 2.0

Not all works under Creative Commons have the same licensing terms, so it is important to work this out by finding the little blue hyperlink button that will direct you to the licensing conditions of the work. There are four basic types of licensing under Creative Commons, but the most useful one is CC BY 2.0. Under this license work can be used for whatever purpose and changed or modified as long as you attribute the creator of the work. I won’t go into the details of the other licenses because their full terms and conditions will be outlined in the licensing hyperlink provided with the work you intend to use.  Just make sure you read and understand the conditions of the license that the work is released under before you use  it.

(NB. If a work is not released under a license then it is considered to be in the Public Domain and can be used without permission. If you release media that is publicly available and want to retain your rights over it make sure you license the work. You can work out what sort of license you want here. See above image ‘Blue Ghost’ for example.)


Step Three: Attribute the Creator 

Ugg & Lee- hyperlinks by Craig R. Kirby CC BY 2.0

All works used under Creative Commons must be properly attributed to the creator. This means including the author and title of the work, providing working hyperlinks to the original work and the license under which it is released, and when necessary stating if the work has been modified and then re-licensing it under the original license. Make sure you do this! Otherwise it is unfair to the creator and you are in breach of the copyright.


It might seem daunting at first, or even a little bit boring, but once you get into using Creative Commons it becomes easier and suddenly a whole new world of media is opened up to you. This is just the briefest introduction to using Creative Commons in Australia and there is so so so much more. But for a digital novice, it is enough… for now.

Goodbye not so scary copyright house..

Saying Goodbye by Kylie_Jaxxon CC BY SA 2.0



Author: jscamilleri

I write fantasy, graphic novels, and young adult fiction.

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