Creative Commons, Copyright and Image Searching

One of the big issues facing the use of ICT in schools is the very lax culture surrounding the use of images and multimedia. When children produce presentations they are often given free rein to use image search tools and music download sites to create their own works. Little or no thought is given to licence attribution or copyright, and teachers are often as guilty of this lazy approach themselves in creating their own resources.

The simple fact is that, unless specifically granted, you do not have permission to reproduce images (or sound files, or video etc) from someone’s website. Period.

Fortunately, there are many people using the web nowadays who are happy to share their work and allow people to copy, re-use and even adapt original pieces of media. An organisation has grown around this trend which makes it easy for people to identify work that they can use safely. This is Creative Commons.

The volume of work now licensed under Creative Commons is such that it is now possible to use certain web tools to identify images and sounds so licensed. One such tool is the image search engine, Compfight. Compfight is a search tool that trawls the well known image hosting service, Flickr. First thing to note, Flickr is sometimes blocked by LA filters – test it in your school to see.

Using Compfight

  1. Make sure the safe search tag is set to “on”
  2. Set the Creative Commons tag to “Only” – finds all images licensed under the various Creative Commons attributions
  3. Set the “Seek Original” tag to “Off”
  4. Enter your search term


“romans” found about 250 usable images

“Kandinsky” found about 60 images

“Mountain” found thousands of images

In other words, you should be able to find some usable images for any curriculum project you care to mention. Once you’ve spotted an image you like, click on it to bring up the Flickr page containing that image. Click on the small “All sizes” button at the top left hand corner of the image and select the size image you wish to download to your pc. Once downloaded, you can then upload your image to your blog post via the media uploader.

Once uploaded, you usually still need to attribute your source, as most Creative Commons licenses require you to do this (see John Johnston’s search tool below).

Educating staff and children alike about Creative Commons and the use of tools such as Compfight is good practice and helps engender a responsible attitude towards the internet.

Other Creative Commons Search Tools

Besides Compfight, there are a number of other Creative Commons search tools – all seem to be based on Flickr – will be an issue if Flickr is blocked in your school!

Flickr Storm: Click on the “advanced” tab to search for Creative Commons only

FlickrCC: Has the advantage of giving you the Creative Commons attribution and the URL of the image, so need to go to Flickr to embed it.

John Johnston: A neat Flickr mashup from a colleague that adds the Creative Commons license into the embed code. Search, click on the image you want, copy the embed code and paste it into your blog on the html tab. Voila!

Photo by Waka Jawaka
Attribution License


About john sutton

Founder of Creative Blogs.

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Creative Blogs are the UK's leading educational blogging specialists. We build Wordpress Multisite blog platforms for schools.

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