Sourcing & creating multimedia

This topic will help you to understand what is Creative Commons and how to source openly licensed multimedia.

Learning outcomes

This topic will assist in your understanding of:

  • what is Creative Commons and Creative Commons licencing
  • how to source Creative Commons multimedia
  • How to find works in the Public Domain


As a Southern Cross University student, you may be asked to create a video, presentation, website or blog as part of your assessments. These types of assessments require finding different types of multimedia such as images, audio, animations and video content. This topic will give you the tools to find multimedia without infringing copyright. To ensure you have a genuine understanding of copyright as a university student, read through the topic Digital citizenship and copyright.

What does Creative Commons mean?

In 2001, educators, librarians, technologists, legal scholars and others came together to establish Creative Commons, a non-profit organisation, set up with the intention of facilitating sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Creative Commons have created a range of licences which enable a content creator to allow others to use their work in a number of defined ways. It is integral that all works are attributed similar to how you would reference in an assignment to avoid plagiarism. You can read the full details of each licence on the Creative Commons website, or read the SCU overview of Creative Commons.

 The Creative Commons Licenses

“Creative Commons Licenses Infographic” by ricardo56 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Finding Licensed Works

There are many different ways you can access licenced works for your project, including using search engines, and by browsing or searching stock collections.

Search engines

Search across multiple collections using a search engine.

  • Creative Commons Search — CC Search will search across large collections of Commons material, including Europeana, Flickr, and the New York Public Library.
  • Advanced Google Image Search — simply add your search terms and then use the “usage rights” drop-down to select options starting with “free to use”.

Free collections

There are many free stock collections available for you to use. These include:

  • Wikimedia Commons — contains 22 million freely usable media files including images, audio and video content.
  • Flickr — contains images you can search by search keyword and then select drop-down option “Any licence”. 
  • Unsplash — the Unsplash licence allows for a non-exclusive copyright licence for commercial or non-commercial use, to share, modify, distribute, or perform. Attribution is not necessary.
  • Pixabay —contains images under a Creative Commons CC0 Licence.  
  • BBC Sound Effects — contains over 16,000 sound effects are made available under a RemArc licence.
  • Freesound — database of sounds licenced under Creative Commons.

Finding public domain works

public domain work “is not protected by copyright, either because copyright has expired or because of a failure to comply with formal requirements for copyright protection” (Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary). Once a work enters the public domain you can use, share, modify, or transform the creative work for free.

In Australia, photographs taken prior to 1 January 1955 are considered to be in the public domain. Photographs taken after 1 January 1955 are protected for the life of the creator, plus an additional 70 years.

Australian fashion outside Minerva French Perfumery, Kings Cross, Sydney, July 1941 / Russell Roberts. State Library of New South Wales

Flickr is a great resource for public domain photographs. Simply search by keyword and filter your results by changing the “Any licence” drop-down to “No known copyright restrictions”.  Alternatively, browse the Flickr Commons.

Many libraries have extensive collections of historical images.

Australian collections

International collections

I Cefalopodi viventi nel Golfo di Napoli (sistematica) Berlin :R. Friedländer & Sohn,1896.


Determining when audio enters the public domain can be difficult. In Australia, sound recordings made prior to 1 January 1955 are in the public domain. However, because audio may be just one part of other types of works, we recommend that you contact the Library for copyright advice if the work does not include any indication of copyright status.

These are some examples of public domain audio resources:


As with audio, determining whether video content has entered the public domain can be complicated. We recommend that you contact the Library for copyright advice if the work does not include any indication of copyright status.

There are many collections containing public domain video content:

Content reused and adapted from Digital Essentials by UQ Library Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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