Quick question:  The last time that you needed an image for a project, where did you get it from? Google, right?  That nifty little Images tab makes it SO easy to find just the right shot for your slide deck, doesn’t it?

Here’s the thing:  Pictures — just like text, music and video — are protected by copyright even when they’re posted on the Internet.  That means there’s a GOOD chance that when you grab a picture from Google, you’re stealing it using it inappropriately.

That’s a lesson I learned the hard way, y’all.  A few years back I wrote a bit here on the Radical called A Lesson Learned from One Fat Ox.  In the original bit, I added a great picture of two oxen pulling a plow that I found in a Google image search.

A few days later, I got an email from the photographer asking me whether I’d already negotiated rights for using the image with her.  After a very uncomfortable conversation, she let me off the hook — but only after I agreed to teach my students a lesson about copyright protections for images.

Since then, I’ve worked hard to learn as much as I can about the Creative Commons — which is a form of copyright protection that content creators who WANT to freely share their work have started to embrace.

Need an introduction to Creative Commons licenses? Then check out this video from the minds behind the Creative Commons:

When I introduce Creative Commons to my middle school students, though, I typically use this Commoncraft video.  It’s a little more approachable and easier to understand for tweens:

So where can you find Creative Commons content? 

While there are a ton of different online sources for content that creators are sharing freely, my favorite is Flickr Creative Commons mostly because Flickr is such a popular photo-sharing website that there are almost always dozens — if not hundreds — of really good pictures to choose from no matter what topic I’m building a presentation around.

Of course, Flickr is also almost always blocked at schools.  That makes Morguefile useful.  While the collection at Morguefile isn’t nearly as large — and the quality of photos isn’t nearly as high — at least it’s not blocked by school Internet filters, right?

The Search feature on the Creative Commons website is also incredibly useful simply because it allows users to search for Creative Commons content in several of the most popular online warehouses.

While it’s not TECHNICALLY a search engine itself, it will automatically send your request for Creative Content to search engines like Google and return results in a new window.

That is a HECK of a lot easier than teaching tweens how to sift through the advanced settings features in search engines looking for the right filters to get content that is available for reuse.

In the end, teaching kids to use digital content responsibly is probably one of the most important lessons in today’s digital world, don’t you think?  After all, visually driven mashups are probably the most common type of product being created by anyone who is working to change minds or be influential.

It’s hard to be influential, though, when you’re stealing other people’s stuff!


Related Radical Reads:

Five Tips for Creating PowerPoint Slides that Won’t Bore Your Audiences


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