Share and Share Alike Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons, and OER

Want to use images, videos, or text from the internet in a presentation, project, or assignment? You should consider whether you are allowed to do so before you make your move. Below you will find a summary of 3 key components regarding creative work in education: Copyright and Fair Use, Creative Commons, and Open Educational Resources.

Note: Information on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute specific legal advice.

Many resources you find online are subject to copyright, which provides protection for the creative work of the copyright holder. But just because something is copyrighted does not mean that you cannot use it. Common Sense Education has published an excellent video explaining this commonly misunderstood topic for educators and students.

If it is copyrighted, you have 2 options:

  1. Obtain permission from the copyright holder to use their work in your project.
  2. Use the creative work without express permission in accordance with Fair Use guidelines. For more information on Fair Use, keep reading below.

Option 2 raises even more questions, the first of which is this: What exactly constitutes Fair Use? This question cannot be answered definitively, since Fair Use is determined on a case by case basis. However, the United States Copyright Office offers 4 key factors used to determine whether a particular instance constitutes Fair Use, which are summarized below.

  1. Purpose and character of the use: Educational uses are more likely to be considered Fair Use, but it is not guaranteed. Also, use that transforms the work for a new purpose, as opposed to directly substitute, is more likely to be considered Fair Use.
  2. Nature of the the copyrighted work: Informational material is more likely to be considered fair use than a work of fiction.
  3. Amount or portion of the work used: Typically only a small portion of the copyrighted work should be used. The less that is used, the more likely it is to be considered Fair Use.
  4. Impact upon the commercial use of the original work: The use should not have a negative impact upon the commercial sales of the work being used.

If this seems complicated, then you may be happy to learn about a simpler way to license and share content. Creative Commons creates licenses for content that allows users to use that content without permission as long as certain conditions are met. To learn more about Creative Commons, watch the short video below.

"Creative Commons Kiwi" by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand, with support from InternetNZ, is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand licence. A project of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Produced by Mohawk Media.

Are you ready to begin your journey into Creative Commons? Check out this short list of CC sources to get started.

Creative Commons licensed work sounds great, but how do you begin finding and using these valuable resources? The answer: OER, or Open Educational Resources. This is a growing movement to create and share educational resources worldwide. Watch this short video to learn more.

"Password: OER" CC BY Laura Rachfalski

Are you ready to begin your journey into OERs? Check out this short list of OER communities to get started.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit


Created with images by C!... - "Share" • DavidWees - "Copyright symbol" • Kalexanderson - "Creative Commons" • beedieu - "Quibble Over the Cloud"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.