How many times have you ever had to search the web for an image, a piece of music, a video to use for your work? Maybe it was a picture for a presentation or a sprite or a sound for a video game.

You will surely find many paid resources, but also many resources without apparent restrictions, immediately available for download.

Usually, the former are covered by the so-called Copyright: authors hold the rights to be the only users and sell them for a fee, then the buyer can use the resources without particular restrictions, with the exception of the transfer of the resource to third parties. These are resources that are sold through a non-exclusive use license: if we are talking about images belonging to a stock, often the same resource can also be purchased by other buyers.

The site selling the resource implements a series of measures to make impossible, or at least very difficult, the use of these resources without paying a  fee: the most common is a watermark, that is, in the case of images, the practice to print a symbol (usually the site logo) in semi-transparency on the image surface to make difficult photo editing and "clean up" the image. In the case of music tracks, an audio track is inserted into the track with a regular frequency overlapping the main track.

Creative Commons (CC)

The other resources whose download is "free" appear instead more attractive as they are substantially free of charge and do not require the payment of any fee.

Maybe, just because they are free of charge and can be downloaded freely, you happened to use them without any particular care, isn't it?

The fact that they are free of charge, however, must not be misleading: usually even the use of these resources is subordinated to restrictions.

These are the resources that are inspired by the Copyleft model in contrast to Copyright: this model was initially developed in the IT area, but today it is extended to all works of genius.

The most well-known licenses that belong to this category are the Creative Commons licenses, a mix between the Copyright (all rights reserved) and the Public Domain (no reserved rights): in this case the author reserves some rights and grants other users freely.

To understand if the resource is regulated by a Creative Commons license, you need to check whether the site you are downloading the resource from shows a Creative Commons license in one of its shapes.

Each of the symbols shown in the image with its short description has a very specific meaning: for example, the image of the man in the circle with the word BY means that if you want to use the resource, it is necessary to attribute authorship to the author (made BY ...).

The $ symbol associated with NC means "non-commercial use only": in this case, therefore, the resource cannot be used, for example, in an e-commerce site, but can be used in a presentation made for educational purpose in a school.

The last symbol that can contain = or the "counterclockwise" symbol indicates whether the resource can be modified or must be maintained the same.


Unfortunately, there are images on the net that can't be associated either to the Copyright model or to the Copyleft model or explicitly be classified in the public domain: these are usually images that some users have purchased or downloaded and have rushly diffused (at best) without complying with the license conditions. Please, avoid using them and follow the suggestions we have given you: among the resources in the public domain, the ones with a CC license or with a payment request (you can find excellent at affordable prices) you will surely find the one that's right for you, without having to use resources from unknown sources.

And if I am the author?

Great! Are you the new Dorothea Lange or a new Chopin and are you the author of the photograph, the drawing or the piece of music?
Which license should you choose, then?
International STEM Awards promotes sharing values in the community, so we are rooting for you to share your work at least with a Creative Commons license.

In fact, if you wish to apply to our challenges, we ask you to share your project with a Creative Commons CC BY-NC 4.0 license, a license intended for non-commercial use where it is necessary to mention the author. In any case, if you wish to identify the Creative Commons license that best suits your needs as an author, you can use this license generator available on the official Creative Commons site.