Free Music, Photos and Videos for Educational Projects (Creative Commons, Public Domain)

DJ Jdee

Everyone likes free stuff, right? Educators in particular are constantly in need of free resources to use with their students.

It's not hard to find or obtain free content online. That's just the nature of the internet. But how do you find media that is both freely available and ethical to use? 

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to do the ethically right thing and still get access to millions of free resources. You just need to know where, and how, to look.

First off, there are basically two kinds of free media out there: Public Domain and Creative Commons licensed content.  Here are a bunch of sources for accessing both kinds of media.

Public Domain Content

Public Domain is pretty simple; it covers media that either have gotten old enough to be now freely available for anyone to use for any purpose, or content that someone has explicitly released as Public Domain because they want everyone to use it. Also, pretty much everything released by the government is by its nature in the public domain. 

Sources for Public Domain media:

  • A treasure trove of all forms of media stored and made available by the Internet Archive project. This includes everything from e-books to music albums, artwork, videos, even software. It's not the the most intuitive site to navigate, but there's literally terabytes of stuff for you to play with there.
  • The Open Music Archive: another great source of free music in the Public Domain (in the UK)
  • Smithsonian Digital Media Database: Lots of neat stuff here, of course.
  • NY Public Library Digital Collections: 672,000 items (at last count) digitized from the NYPL public collections.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a new licensing arrangement where the producers of a work can stipulate where and how they would like their work used by others. You can indicate if you would like your work to be used for only non-commercial purposes, for re-mixes, or only in its unadulterated entirety. You just need to put a little indicator of the source of where you got the work in your project.

Creative Commons Licensed media:

  • CC MixterCreative Commons licensed music
  • Flickr: You can do an advanced search on the Flickr photo sharing site for photos that are Creative Commons licensed. I like their interface better than using Google, and typically they have higher quality photos. Just do a standard search and then click on Advanced to access the license menu.
  • Creative Commons Search: An easy way to search across multiple sites for music, video, and images that are CC-licensed
  • YouTube: You can filter your searches to just look for Creative Commons licensed videos. You will need to use a tool like Keepvid to download them though.
  • Google Image Search: You can do an advanced image search using Google that searches only for content that is "free to use or share" or a variety of other options. Just do a standard Google image search, then click on the gear in the upper right corner to access the advanced search settings. Go down to "Usage rights" and select one that matches your situation.

Google advanced search

Other sources:

  • Mobygratis: free tracks made available for non-profit use by the DJ Moby
  • Incompetech: Free music for various projects, including commercial
  • Jamendo: royalty-free tracks

There are many , many other places you can go for free-to-use, open license content for your media projects. These are just the ones that I find the most helpful. Feel free to share other resources you like in the comments.

A Word of Caution: For various reasons, you will find copyrighted content listed incorrectly as in the Public Domain or Creative Commons licensed. Use good judgement when reviewing media to see if the poster actual is the rights holder, if it's likely that the work is actually freely available, or if it is watermarked in some way to prevent re-use.

With that, good luck and happy media creating! It's a wonderful time for artistic expression, collaboration and sharing. 

[cc-licensed image "DJ Jdee" by Tony Madrid Photography.]


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