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Open Educational Resources / Open Access Journals

How to search for openly-licensed resources

Google Search, results refined by Usage Rights settings

Many people start out looking for OER using Google. A general search with Google returns vast amounts of resources, most of which are not openly licensed for reuse. If you copy or post these materials online, you may be in violation of the copyright holders' rights. Fair use will not protect publication of "All rights reserved" materials by someone other than the copyright holder onto the open web. 

Example Image Search In Google modified by Usage Rights

If you want to use Google to search for openly licensed resources we recommend you modify your search results using Tools --> Usage Rights. 

Scroll down in advanced search and set “usage rights” parameters to be “Free to use, share, or modify”.
If you want content for commercial use be sure to select the appropriate option.

Google search returns a vast array of openly licensed resources that may require extensive sifting to yield useful nuggets. The other search recommendations on this page are likely to yield more targeted results.

1.1 Google Image Search

1.2 CC Search

CC Search, the Creative Commons search tool, lets you pick a range of general sources and media types which you want to search for. Give it a try at:

CC Search

The CC Search tool automatically filters your search to find Creative Commons licensed resources that you can share, use, and remix.

2. Photo/Image Search

Searching for photos or images?

2.1 CC Search

CC Search, the Creative Commons search tool, lets you lets you pick a number of image sources you want to search across including Flickr, Fotopedia, Google Images, Open Clip Art Library, Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay. The CC Search tool automatically filters your search to find Creative Commons licensed resources that you can share, use, and remix. Give it a try at:

CC Search

If you prefer to do your searches directly from these sources direct links to each of these image sources are provided below. If you choose to do your search directly from the image source sites be sure to set the parameters of your search to define openly licensed usage rights and review the usage rights associated with any image you find.

2.2 Flickr


2.3 Google Images

Google Images
Be sure to scroll down in advanced search and set “usage rights” parameters to be “Free to use, share, or modify”.
If you want content for commercial use be sure to select the appropriate option.

2.5 Pixabay

Note, that Pixabay images are public domain images you can freely use for personal and commercial use without attribution to the original author. While Pixabay can be a good way to find public domain images your search will also return proprietary professional images Pixabay offers for sale.

2.6 Open Clip Art Library

Open Clip Art Library
Note, that Open Clip Art Library images are public domain images you can freely use for personal and commercial use without attribution to the original author.

2.7 Fotopedia

To find images openly licensed click “advanced options” in the top, right-hand side screen. Change the “any license” to an open license – reuse, commercial and modification options available.

2.8 The Noun Project

The Noun Project is a platform empowering the community to build a global visual language of icons and symbols that everyone can understand. Symbols and icons on The Noun Project are licensed using Creative Commons.

The sources above are online image databases. In addition to these sources there are many openly licensed electronic publications and journals with images embedded throughout that you are also free to use. Here are just a few of many examples:

2.8 Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life is an online collaborative encyclopedia providing global access to knowledge about biological life on earth. Entries are composed as written content with one or more pictures usually in the form of colour photographs. Content is provided by a wide variety of contributors but is reviewed for accuracy. All content on EOL is licensed under Creative Commons (CC) licenses, but each contributor defines what level of CC licensing is applicable to their content. Specific licensing information can be found adjacent to media or by clicking on desired media. If no reuse information is included then it is understood that there are no reuse restrictions other than providing credit when reusing the image.

2.9 Public Library of Science (PLOS)

PLOS is a non-profit publisher and advocacy organization focused on science and medicine. Every article they publish is open access. All written content and images are licensed using a Creative Commons Attribution license. Searching through PLOS journals and collections can yield many highly useful images including figures, tables, and graphs.

In addition to electronic publications and journals some galleries, museums and archives publish historical images online. For a great example see:

2.10 Europeana

Europeana provides access to the digital resources of Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections including paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects. Not all the works are openly licensed so be sure to check for usage rights.

3. Video Search

Searching for video? Try:

3.1 YouTube

The best way to find a video that is licensed under the Creative Commons license on YouTube is to use the CC Search tool described above in the General Search and Photo/Image Search sections. Unfortunately YouTube does not provide a filter or advanced search capability on their home page for finding all YouTube Creative Commons licensed videos. However, lets you see the most viewed and most reused Creative Commons licensed videos. In addition if you are the YouTube home page and type in your search term followed by a comma and then “creativecommons” the videos returned are CC licensed. You can mark your videos with a Creative Commons license when uploading them to YouTube. You can also incorporate the millions of Creative Commons-licensed videos on YouTube when creating your own videos using the YouTube Video Editor. Within the YouTube Video Editor you can click on the CC tab to find content available under a Creative Commons license.

3.2 Vimeo

Vimeo lets you easily post and find Creative Commons licensed videos.

3.3 Internet Archive

The Internet Archive has a great collection of old video and movie footage. Looking for old cartoons, sports videos, ephemeral films, news footage? Check out the Internet Archive.

3.4 Ted – Ideas Worth Spreading

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. On, the best talks and performances from TED and partners are made available to the world, for free. More than 900 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week. All of the talks are subtitled in English, and many are subtitled in various languages. These videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

3.5 Al Jazeera

The Al Jazeera Creative Common Repository hosts select broadcast quality footage that Al Jazeera has released under various Creative Commons licenses. Select Al Jazeera video footage is available for free to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and eventually rebroadcasted by users and TV stations across the world with acknowledgement to Al Jazeera. This is the first time that video footage produced by a news broadcaster is released under the ‘Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution’ license which allows for commercial and non-commercial use.

4. Audio/Music Search

Searching for openly licensed audio sounds or music? Try:

4.1 Jamendo

Jamendo offers more than 350,000 free music tracks licensed under Creative Commons, all available for streaming and unlimited download without ads. It allows the public to discover thousands of artists of all genres who have chosen to distribute their music independently outside the traditional system of collecting societies. Jamendo artists can choose to join the Jamendo PRO service that allows them to sell commercial licenses of their music for professional uses, such as music synchronization for audio-visual productions or broadcasting in public spaces. You can search for music on Jamendo using the CC Search tool or directly on the Jamendo web site.

4.2 ccMixter

ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want. Looking for music for a video, school project, game you’re developing, or podcast? Find music liberally licensed – using dig.ccMixter music discovery tool.

4.3 Internet Archive

In addition to video mentioned above the Internet Archive has a great collection of audio. Searching for animal sounds, old time radio shows, sound effects and even music. The Internet Archive may have what you’re looking for.

4.4 Free Music Archive

The Free Music Archive offers free downloads under Creative Commons and other licenses. Please visit the track page to discover what you can and cannot do with each track.

4.5 SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a social sound platform for people to create and share music and sounds. Recording and uploading sounds to SoundCloud lets people easily share them privately with their friends or publicly to blogs, sites and social networks. Many SoundCloud songs and sounds are licensed with Creative Commons. Use the url to see SoundCloud sounds and songs licensed with Creative Commons.

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