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Leveraging Command of Creative Commons Licenses

April 1, 2019

Copyright is a scary word for a lot of folks. Many people aren’t sure what all it entails, how it matters for their own product, or what the consequences of not adhering to copyright regulations are. As a faculty librarian, I’m often asked questions about copyright, and while I sometimes have to send them to librarians who have specialized in copyright, most questions I receive can be answered with a short lesson in Creative Common Licenses. By leveraging command of what Creative Commons is and how it can be used in student work, librarians can gain entrance into more courses for both copyright and other information literacy skill instruction sessions.

A lot of faculty at my institution have heard of Creative Common licenses, but aren’t really sure what they are or how they work. However, more and more faculty are encouraged to have their students create products that involve some type of digital media. Whether it’s podcasts, portfolios, or digital narratives, students are increasingly engaged in the digital arts. While they may use their own content, sometimes students are wont to “borrow” content they find online. Often that content is copyrighted. A quick lesson in how to find and use free licensed content is a valuable tool for an academic librarian to offer to faculty and students, and a good way to promote librarian help and instruction in classes that may not normally ask for it.

Over the past year, I’ve been approached about doing more information literacy sessions that involve a short piece on copyright. At first I started talking about Creative Commons licenses for just a few moments during those sessions, but soon after faculty began to approach me directly with questions about Creative Commons. I found a lot of useful resources made by my Penn State Media Commons colleagues, but also created some of my own content to share with students. While a lot of resources dive into how to find Creative Commons or other free licensed material, understanding why Creative Commons and copyright exist is a starting place I’ve had more luck with. I’ve found that students are especially appreciative of the knowledge that what they create is theirs; they own it, and they can promote it how they want. While we mainly talk about class projects, I always bring up the importance of following copyright on any creative content our students are producing, whether its a personal interest or an academic assignment, and stress that their creations are also copyrighted. This then ties back into the idea of giving credit to whomever has created the original work or written the article, and also lets me tie in lessons on proper citation and why it matters but that citing something does not automatically mean you’re following copyright regulations, too. Faculty have been happy to have a brief lesson on copyright that they don’t need to plan, and I’m happy to get more class time with courses I have not worked with previously.

For quick resources on fair use, copyright, and Creative Commons licenses, check these links:

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