Free Content Online? CC License Explained

Looking for free downloadable content you can use for your blog, website, book promotional materials, etc.? Have you found media (music, images, etc.) that has a Creative Commons (CC) license? Did you know what it meant? Was it confusing? If so, I'd like to help shed some light on this useful (and generous) niche of downloadable materials.

From their website:
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.
Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”
Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

There are a variety of CC licenses available for an artist/creator to assign to their work. They vary in complexity and identify how the work can be used, shared, and modified by others. The common thread, regardless of the conditions, is that the user credits the creator for proper use of their work. A CC license is different than public domain--don't confuse the two. And do not misinterpret a CC license as a free pass to use the material however you like.

So how can you tell a photo or composition has a CC license? Look for a symbol, like, or similar to, this (there are several varieties, depending on the specific use permissions):

So now you may be thinking "Okay smart-ass, you've told me what it is, but how the heck do I find CC stuff to use?" Pretty much the same way you search for anything else on the internet.  However, there are some very useful free search tools that help:
  • CCFinder 2013 by Abelssoft is a free downloadable tool that I use. It's easy to install and operate, has configurable settings, and provides information on the types of CC licenses on the pictures you find.  Two thumbs up!
And I'd be remiss if I didn't plug my favorite CC music website Incompetech, by the incomparable Kevin McLeod, one of the many talented musicians providing royalty-free music on the internet.

So what can you do with CC content?  Here's an example of just one of the many ways CC-licensed content can be used:

And just in case it's not obvious, I blog not just because it's fun to share these tidbits of information with you, but also because I wrote a book I'd like you to read. It's an indie epic fantasy called Crimson & Cream, and I'd be delighted if you took a look at it. If you promise to give it a fair review, I'll even send you a copy for free (just contact me).