2 Copyright and Creative Commons

Copyright and Creative Commons for Teachers


Copyright and Creative Commons


The idea of sourcing media created by others used in our own creation of documents, videos, audio recordings, images, etc. is addressed in the section on digital citizenship and literacy. However, there are many aspects to consider in terms of sourcing and sharing materials.

Copyright laws in Canada have recently changed and some of these changes impact teachers. Teachers have historically viewed themselves as having an important role in educating students on the difference between plagiarism (passing off another’s work as your own) and sourcing properly (using others work to help make your own point). Educators also need to consider this when creating learning materials for students and communicating with students digitally. The best way to help students understand the difference between remixing, sourcing and plagiarising is to lead by example. This can be difficult in today’s very connected world. Some common examples of plagiarism that can be found in classrooms:

  • taking content (text, images) from the web and printing it or adding to a document or website for students to use without including proper credit to the author

  • finding other teachers’ material (text, images, rubrics, learning activities, etc.) and printing or distributing it digitally without including proper credit to the author

  • copying or saving an image from the internet and adding it to a class assignment or content without including proper credit to the author/creator

  • copying or saving an image from the internet and tweeting it, posting it on Facebook or posting it in other online communities without including proper credit to the author/creator. There is a difference between tweeting an image out as your own and “retweeting” another’s tweet. Retweeting or “sharing” on Facebook both keep the author’s credit intact and appear as though you are sharing their work. If you copy or save the image and then tweet or post it yourself, it appears as though it is your own creation or work. This is an important distinction.  If tweeting or posting on your own account, you must include the author/creator’s name and a link to where they can be found online.


While the details of sourcing and copyright can be complicated and confusing, all teachers should always ask themselves;

  • “does it appear as though I created that material, or is it very obvious that I’m using someone else’s work to communicate and share my ideas?”,

  • “can someone find the original author or creator online easily based on my source information?”.


The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada has created a digital resource for teachers to get a better understanding of copyright and how it impacts students and teachers. It can be accessed here and is a great place to start learning.

Creative Commons is a way for people license their own work for sharing. It is important that teachers and students understand Creative Commons, know how to attribute the works of others that are used in their own creations and know how to license their own work with Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has grown to adapt to a culture where people want to share their material. As an author or creator, if other people remix or use creations in their material, it reaches a wider audience. The author earns more recognition for their work, as long as it is sourced properly. For example, a teacher who creates a set of great lesson plans and learning resources and posts them online with a creative common license can request that his/her work is attributed back to them. With others using and posting their adapted lessons on their own sites and online communities, the original teacher has reached many more people than if only posted on their own site. This is the culture of sharing that has developed online and is happening in many areas ranging from music, video, visual arts and text creations.

Creative Commons has a set of licenses that can be used by creators including the following options.


Creative Commons Licenses

The information below was shared by CreativeCommons.org using a Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International License.  The source of the information is: creativecommons.org/licenses/




This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

View License Deed | View Legal Code




This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.

View License Deed | View Legal Code




This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

View License Deed | View Legal Code




This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

View License Deed | View Legal Code




This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

View License Deed | View Legal Code




This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

View License Deed | View Legal Code


Using the information available at creativecommons.org teachers and students can license their own works and find media (text, audio, images, video) to use and remix as part of their own creations.

Teachers and students looking for more information should check out this PDF resource created by Rodd Lucier and Zoe Branigan-Pipe titled Creative Commons in the Classroom, or this recorded OTF Connects webinar by Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen.





Creative Commons in the Classroom