A collection of old photos

Summer is the perfect time to start planning updates for your Fall courses. Whether you are updating an old course or building a new course, you may find yourself looking for images, sound bites, and video. Part of engaging your students is developing the element of entertainment to build interest and garner attention. If you’re not savvy creating your own multimedia resources, make something eye-catching and interesting to watch by using open-licensed stock media.

Copyright, Open Licenses and the Public Domain

There is a plethora of great media online, but often it is protected by copyright. One of the challenges to finding the perfect media resource is ensuring that you are not infringing on anyone else’s copyright. Although you have wide latitude as an educator when reusing media created by others, it is smart to understand your rights as a content creator and to know how you are permitted to use and modify existing media. One easy way to do this is to search for media that is already licensed for reuse. Look for work that is available under open content licenses like Creative Commons, which are specifically licensed for you to use. With these licenses there is no need to ask for the creator’s permission because they have already given it through the open license. If you’re interested in reading more about creating and sharing deliberately using licenses, this article about Creative Commons goes into more detail.

Another way to use media freely in your work is by using work in the public domain. Media in the public domain is not protected by any copyright or license and can be used and remixed by everyone for any purpose. Public domain is not a place, per se, but instead it is a term that refers to the status of a creative work for which no one claims or wishes to assert ownership over. Work is said to fall into the public domain if the duration of copyright has expired or if a creator explicitly relinquishes their right to the work.

Where to Find the Good Stuff

So many great collections are available online that offer high quality media, that there is little reason to settle for what is merely mediocre. Depending on what you need, you are bound to find the media you are looking for among the collections below. Please note that this document will be frequently maintained, so be sure and bookmark it for reference, or save a copy for yourself on Google Drive.

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Do you have resources to share with others? You can share by linking to them in the comments.


Fishman, Stephen, J.D. (2008). The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free. Writings, Music, Art & More. Berkeley, CA: NOLO.