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Finding Creative Commons Content

Various sources for finding and using openly licensed content for your next project.

Providing Attribution

When you use someone else's work and need to provide attribution, there are a couple of things to consider. If you are providing attribution to fulfill the requirements of the license, then you simply need to provide the name of the person who made the content and any useful information to help promote that person and/or help your audience find their work. This is usually a URL to the content or the person's profile page. Most of the time, the service you used to find their content will provide you with attribution text to copy/paste. For example, when you view the page for a song in Free Music Archive, you will see a text blurb that you can copy and paste into your work (see image below).

For audio or video projects, this could mean that you provide attribution within the recording. In a podcast, you might read off the same text you would copy/paste. In a video project, you can include a credits segment within the video where you include the same text blurb. You can also include the attribution in the body of the text of the description for the audio or video recording.

For example, if I used the song Slow Smoke in my project and I post my podcast on the Internet Archive, the description I include on the landing page for my podcast should include the following:

Slow Smoke by Crowander is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This blurb was simply copied and pasted from the song's Free Music Archive page:

Webpage for Crowander's song Slow Smoke, with the attribution information highlighted under the license information.


Alternatively, I could read out that same blurb at the end of my podcast recording.

Another attribution example is in the video tutorial for a podcasting SkillShop. If you visit the YouTube page for Part 1: Gathering Audio and view the description, you will see the attribution for the content used within the video. You can also skip to the end of the video to see the attribution in the credits. In this case, I only included credits for the song that was used. The opening video sequence is also openly licensed content that I reused but is under a specific license that doesn't require attribution, so I opted to only include the attribution in the description for people who want to click on the link to find that great clip or view the artist's profile page.

It's nicest to provide attribution both within the project and in the description! For anyone listening to your podcast who doesn't see the description and attribution blurb, the attribution in the recording is wonderful. For someone who wants a link to click on to find the musician, the textual attribution is very helpful.

The short video below demonstrates how to find and copy/paste the attribution information for three different openly licensed content providers: Pexels, SoundBible, and Free Music Archive.

Citation ≠ Attribution

However, attribution is not the same as a citation. Attribution will fulfill the requirements of the creative commons license and will demonstrate to your instructor that you are not claiming that you created the content, but are using someone else's work (which is very important to avoid violating HSU's Academic Honesty Policy). Attribution is not the same as a citation, however, because it is not properly formatted in a particular citation style and it does not indicate where the content you used appears.

Citations include two pieces, the in-line citation and the bibliography. The in-line citation will appear where the content you are citing is. For example, in a paper, an in-line citation shows up in the same sentence as the passage you are quoting. Similarly, in a slideshow presentation, you would include an in-line citation next to a photo you used from someone else within that slide. Then at the end of your project, the bibliography entry will include all the information someone needs to find that article you quoted or photograph you included in your slideshow.

To know how to properly cite audio files that you use, you will need to consult the style guide or manual that you are following. If your instructor requires that you use APA Style, you will need to check with the APA Style Manual to determine how best to cite audio in an audio project. You can find resources on citation styles within the HSU Library Citation guide.

However, when you are citing a source within a non-textual format (like an audio or video recording) most style guides do not have specific guidelines. The general idea of citing should still be followed, by providing a short citation when you use the content (similar to an in-line citation) and a more complete citation (in the format of a bibliography entry) at the end of the project or in the description. If you create a video project and use a clip from someone else, a simple text blurb at the bottom of the screen with the title of the work and the creator's name will suffice for the in-line citation and more complete information, such as publisher, director, or a link to the source can be included in the credits at the end of the video.

When do you need to cite?

To determine if you need to cite the audio file or just provide attribution, it is best to ask your instructor. If you provide attribution but do not follow your instructor's citation requirement, you will likely be graded down, but will not be committing an academic honesty violation. If you don't provide a citation and you don't provide attribution, you will be violating the usage license and you could be determined to be responsible for violating HSU's Academic Honesty Policy. For this reason, you should always be sure to include attribution, even when it's not strictly required for copyright purposes.

If you use content that has a Public Domain license (which does not require attribution), then you should still provide attribution when you are submitting the project for a class project. This will ensure that you are following the academic honesty policy. It is also simply good practice to provide attribution because it helps the content creator and promotes open licenses, which make projects like yours easier to make!