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Images, sound and video: Copyright and Creative Commons

A guide to available resources and advice for images, sound and video resources at Edinburgh Napier University

What is Creative Commons?

If you want to re-use content from the internet, you need to be very sure about what you are allowed to do with it.  Sometimes it is hard to be sure what is OK.

If you are creating material yourself to publish on the internet, you will automatically be protected by standard copyright law. However, you may want to permit other people to use your material freely, you may want to permit certain uses but restrict others. or you may just want to be acknowledged for your work.

Creative aims to help you share your knowledge and creativity with the world.  It's also a great way to find material you can use freely yourself.

  • There are six different levels of Creative Commons license available, depending on what uses the creator wants to permit.
  • The Creative Commons website helps you choose which option you would like, and creates a license showing the CC symbols appropriate to your choice
  • The most permissive choices are flagged up as being approved for "free cultural works".  This means they are the ones that can be most readily used, shared, and remixed by others, and go furthest toward creating a commons of freely reusable materials. They will also give you less protection of your rights, of course.

The box below shows the CC symbols that are combined in the licenses.

CC symbols


Creative Commons Attribution symbol


          Attribution      BY

  • Acknowledgement of Creator must be included.
Creative Commons non-commercial symbol

          Non-Commercial  NC

  • No commercial uses of the material permitted

Creative commons no derivatives symbol


        No Derivatives     ND

  • The content may not be changed after downloading.
Creative Commons share alike symbol

         Share Alike    SA

  • New instances of content built on the original element must carry the same licence.
Image of Free Cutlural Works symbol

       Free Cultural Works

  • Used as an indicator that you have chosen a permissive license
Not Free Cultural Works symbol

       Not Free Cultural Works

  • Indicates that the license you have chosen is a more restrictive one
Image of Public Domain symbol

        No rights reserved   CC0 

  • Care needed - be sure you really want this before you choose it


Audiovisual copyright

Who is likely to own the copyright?

  • Photographs = photographer since 1989, or owner of negatives before that
  • Databases = maker, or employer of maker
  • Films = producer and principal director, but there will be separate copyrights in music, screenplay, dialogue etc.
  • Broadcasts = person making broadcast, or employer
  • Sound recordings = normally the producer has the rights to the recording, but performers, composers, and lyric writers may also have rights
  • Multimedia productions = very complicated, could be writers, performers, producers, composers, choreographers etc.

How long does copyright last?

  • Copyright is generally 70 years from the end of the year of death of the creator
  • For sound recordings copyright is now generally 70 years from the end of the year of release.
  • For broadcasts, 50 years from the end of the year in which it is first broadcast (but could be longer depending on the content of the broadcast).
  • The typographical layout of printed works is usually protected for 25 years from the end of the year of publication. This applies to printed music as well.

Some sectors of activity have set up organisations to promote and protect the copyrights of their members, and to collect royalties. These are often the best places to begin an enquiry about copyright permissions.