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Digital Collection Class Projects

This guide is designed to assist students with completing digital collection class projects.

Find Openly Licensed Media

Copyright & Licensing

A basic understanding of copyright and licensing is important for people who are using and/or creating digital content. Using a Creative Commons license provides end users of your resource with information about how they can use it. This page provides a basic overview of Creative Commons and the concepts of open licensing.


In Canada, new original works are automatically protected by copyright as soon as they are in a fixed form (e.g. a Word document). And the copyright is generally held by the author of a work, at least initially, giving them the sole right to determine how and when their work is used. This means that unless an author explicitly grants permission, no one can copy or make changes to their work, except in accordance with user rights granted in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing. Therefore, if you want to use a work in a way that doesn’t qualify as a user right, you will need to seek permission from the copyright holder and then ensure you use the material in accordance with the rights they grant. The granting of permission is often referred to as “licensing”. Some copyright holders restrict all rights to their work while others proactively license their work using standard terms that allow anyone to use their work as long as certain terms and conditions are complied with. Creative Commons licenses are a well known example of proactive licensing. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to make it easier for creators to share their work and/or build upon the works of others consistent with the rules of copyright. They have created standard, easy to use and understand copyright licenses that anybody can apply to their work to allow others to share, remix, or use the work without having to contact the copyright owner to ask for permission. There are several Creative Commons licenses, each with a different level of use restrictions.

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative or exception to copyright, they are one way for copyright owners to distribute their work within the copyright framework.

Creative Commons Restrictions
Creators or copyright holders who wish to apply a Creative Commons license to their work can choose to allow their work to be copied and reused with any one or more restrictions, or certain combinations of restrictions. The four restrictions are:

CC-BY icon

You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Non Commercial
You may not use the material for commercial purposes.


Share Alike
If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.


No Derivatives
If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.


Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons offers six different licenses that allow copyright holders to apply different restrictions to how their work may be reused. When using a specific CC-licensed work, it is important to pay attention to the CC license and its restrictions. All Creative Commons licenses require attribution. The specific types of Creative Commons licenses are described on the Creative Commons website.

Creative Commons also has a license chooser that walks you through the process of choosing a license based on various criteria.

This infographic provides a helpful overview of the different licenses and their requirements:

infographic explaining the rights and limitations of various CC licenses


From: How To Attribute Creative Commons Photos by Foter

Copyright & Licensing FAQ

Q: I created my own media content. Do I have to attribute myself?

A: You are not required to, but it is likely a good idea to note on your item that "all photographs/drawings/whatever created by Your Name." That way, anyone looking at your item will understand where the media came from.

Q: I am using media from a website with a proprietary license agreement. How do I properly attribute these media?

A: Some websites, such as Canva, have their own licensing agreement. Please read the license carefully and make your decision based on what it says. In the case of Canva, their license states that "Attribution is not required but always appreciated." As such, you are not required to provide attributions for each item (although it would be appreciated if you did!). If you choose not to attribute each media file, include a link somewhere on your item that all media are used under the website's license, and provide a link to that license.