Copyright & Releases

Copyright & Royalty-Free Resources



Creative Commons -This site is similar to an online museum of music, images, archival video at your fingertips with a philosophy that there should be openly licensed and public domain works of art to be discovered and used by everyone. 

Wikimedia Commons - a collection of 55,237,168 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute

Copyright and Creativity - materials that provide accessible and practical information about copyright– its protections, its limitations, and its role in encouraging creativity. 



Purple Planet Music A favorite: offers stylized music and sound effects easily searched and downloaded.

YouTube Audio Library One of the best and most convenient ways to find copyright free music and sound effects for your media pieces. 

SonnyBoo For each song, all you have to do is credit the songwriter and the music is your to use for free.

SoundCloud A very popular site. Here you can use their music and photos- can get permission- get on site and search "free music" or "royalties free music" and can upload your own music or podcasts. 

GarageBand  Not all songs are free, but many of them are. Great place to make your own, original music too! Need to download app and for Macs only.

Community Audio Thousands of recordings all contributed by archive users and community members. Browse by collection, style or language. 

Jamendo Artists on jamendo give you access to their music for free. If you like it, you can make a donation: your money will go straight to the artist.

Incompetech Organized by genres and moods/feels. One guy makes all this music and it's a little old fashioned but very useful as soundtrack music and it's all free!

Freesoundtrackmusic As the site title suggests, here you can get royalty-free soundtracks to score your films. Note that some of the tracks available are completely free and can be edited and remixed
while others require subscriptions. 

Magnatunes Choose album you like and select "license" and then "non-commercial" to be able to download MP3's for free.

Classic Cat Hundreds of free classical pieces - you choose a composer, a piece and then save. 

Phlow A worldwide creative commons music site where you can download compilations (also referred to as "netaudio" from around the world.

DigccMixter This is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. You can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want.



Freesound Great resource for soundbites and loops. You just need a free account to download.

Ljudo This Swedish site has tons of stuff. Chose "Download," not "Audition."

FindSounds A large bank of royalty-free audio tracks including sound effects, background music and stock audio.

IMAGES Beautiful free photos

SVG Silh Very artistic and unique collection of images and icons.

Behance Powered by Adobe, this site is stocked with artists' postings of their graphic designs, photographs, videos...

PicsForLearning A curated image library that is safe and free for education. Teachers and students can use the copyright-friendly photos and illustrations for classroom projects, web sites, videos, portfolios, or any other projects in an educational setting.

WikiMedia Commons Easily downloadable, very big bank of photos from photo art, to advertising photos to photographs by region to "secret" photos. 

Abduzeedo A design blog where you can download free backgrounds like "elegant flames" to video and flyer templates to photos and music. 

Flickr Search an image and find a bank of copyright free images at your disposal or go to The Commons and explore hidden treasures from the world's public photography archives.

RawPixel Free creative images, illustrations, psd mockups to use as a templated, etc.



Pond5 Thousands of historic media files for your creative projects. 

Creative Commons a body of work freely available for legal use, sharing, repurposing, and remixing. Through the use of CC licenses, millions of people around the world have made their photos, videos, writing, music, and other creative content available for any member of the public to use. An internet library/archive that includes texts, audio, moving images, and software

LearnOutLoud A free audio and video directory with over 50,000 free educational audio books, courses, documentaries, talks, interviews, speeches, etc.


OTHER Abundance of free fonts (be sure to pay close attention to the rights for each font you download)

GoMedia A plethora of tutorials, resources and inspiration

Animal Diversity Web An online database and encyclopedia of animal natural history, built through contributions from students, photographers, etc. 

The Noun Project Over 2 Million curated icons, created by a global community

Clip Art Of  Royalty free clipart, illustrations, vectors and 3D images

Free Technology for Teachers A curation of great tech-related resources from interactive versions of Aesop's Fables to geocaching and green screens 

American Memory Collection American Memory has a wide collection of digitized materials, including photos, music, and video, from the Library of Congress.

Ten Myths about Copyright Explained Don't believe what you think about copyright; read more here.



Frequently Asked Questions

Content courtesy of The Adobe Foundation/ Education Development Center


When teaching media literacy and media arts, you can't skip copyright! Students are for the most part used to indiscriminately downloading and using anything posted online. It is your job to make them aware that EVERYTHING is copyrighted, unless it officially is not.  And though a copyright lesson sounds dry, you can present copyright to students as an opportunity, an opportunity to be original. This is the first thing you should tell students: try to be as original as possible by taking your own photos, video, and creating your own music (or finding friends who can make music/ sound effects for you). This will never fail in getting more students invested and collaborating in and outside of school walls. 


Below are some FAQ about copyright that you can use for media making in your classroom. And at the end of this page is a curated a list of sites for copyright free music, sound effects, film footage, etc. to help you and your students stay legit!


What is copyrighted?

All creative work is copyrighted. Even if there is no copyright notice or emblem, since 1978, all creative works automatically have the protections of copyright laws. 


But I'm not making money off my piece?

Even if you don't make any money on the use of someone else's creative work, it can still be a violation of copyright laws. 


Do I always have to credit the original creator?

Even if you believe that the borrowed material is "safe" (falls under the Fair Use Doctrine), the original creator must always be credited. 




Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Public Domain: Works created in the U.S. prior to 1923 are now in the public domain and are not protected by copyright. You should assume, unless you know otherwise, that anything created after 1923 is protected by copyright laws. In addition, many works created between 1923 and 1964 have allowed their copyrights to lapse and are now in the public domain. 


So when can I copy creative material?

Portions of creative works may be copied for educational purposes and the purposes of parody or criticism. 

Boy behind camera


Copyright Checklist



  •  What locations are shown in your film? Are there any recognizable locations (including places of business, private residences) or public places (such as city parks, public buildings) that may require signed releases? Do you have the needed releases? Can you get them?


  •  What are the planned components of your film's soundtrack? Do any of these components pose potential copyright problems? Music: Are you using someone else's music? Do you have permission to use it? Narration: Are voices other than your own used? Do you have signed releases for these?


  •  Looking back at the footage that will be used in your film, do you see any recognizable logos, trademark designs, copyrighted slogans, product containers, etc. visible in any scenes? If there are any of these visible items, what options do you have for dealing with these copyrighted items?


  •  Does your film contain any clips or segments taken from a commercial video, or taped from commercial or public television? Do you think the use of these would constitute copyright violations, or would the fair use doctrine apply? What choices will you have to make in dealing with these issues?






  • Asking permission and getting denied does not end your rights to Fair Use - sometimes it can even help your case. 
  • Make sure it all material is needed to make your commentary/critique -instead of a shortcut from making your own material. 
  • Make sure you use no more than is necessary to make your point. 
  • Use a variety of sources - do not focus entire piece on one quote, clip, or brand. 
  • Identify and credit owner of material. 
  • Be prepared to argue why material is either (a) extremely necessary or (b) very unavoidable without altering the "reality" you are capturing. 
  • Fair Use does not help you get access to material - you may still have to deal with piracy laws if ripping a DVD, or off YouTube, or taping off the television, etc. 
  • Fair Use as we know it is unique to America. Other countries may allow for it, but each has its own individual laws. 
  • Get all rights when possible!

Media Use Guidelines



Using TV footage - how many seconds is allowed without having to get permission? Any? 

There is no set time limit or percentage of a piece. Make sure the footage is used towards commentary, critique, or parody/satire and that its utilization is not simply used as a substitute to shooting something yourself ( ie. personal interviews, etc.) 


Images from crowds - when do you get releases? 

Not when filmed in a public place where there is no assumption of privacy. If an individual is singled out, then you would need a signed release for permission. 


Recording someone's voice - do you need a release for this? 

Yes!  This does not have to do with copyright, but with privacy laws. 

Parent signatures for kid interviews - do you need this for ALL interviews? 

Yes! Here is a sample release form you might consider using.


When DON'T I need to get releases/permission?

Buildings filmed from public places; federal government works - including words, footage, etc. hold no copyrights; objects in public domain, when you have access to a reproduction yourself; public domain is generally 70 years after the death of the author, or, if by a company: 95 years since publication or 120 years from creation - (almost) anything published before 1923. 


Can I use images from the internet?

As long as your intent is for non-commercial use, follow the guidelines above. Follow the same guidelines as you would for video-- make sure the copyrighted image is necessary to support your claim, part of a critique or parody, fair use, or just use copyright-free images! But you must always cite the source of your images. 


How do you cite images from the internet?

In a slideshow: include a list of references in an end slide, just as you would write a bibliography for a paper. Ex: Author. Title. [Online] Available http://address/filename, Date. 

Standards for citing on multimedia?

Either cite along with clip/quote/etc or in credits; standards for citing from books and from the internet, especially on a print project. There are a variety of standards-- MLA, APA, and Chicago are the most frequently used for citing in print projects. Info you must include: author, where obtained (book title, website, etc), date published. 


Is a model release needed for photography?

Yes, except when photographed in a public place where there is no assumption of privacy. 


Am I allowed to show brands?

The truth is, you should try to avoid this. In general, no, you are not legally allowed to show brands. However, in documentary film, since going out of your way to avoid these would in effect be altering the reality you are documenting, it is generally agreed that you are allowed to show brands. Make sure that content is attributed when needed and it is not the prime focus of the scene unless needed. Be sure that the brand was not purposely put in the shot if not needed to critique. 


How would I make a piece about consumerism without showing brands?

If you are creating a documentary that is critiquing these brands, you are allowed to use them in context. That means use just enough to make or illustrate your point, no more. 


What should I do if I need to comply with copyright and release laws?

Get release forms signed by anyone who appears in your film.

Get release forms for any recognizable private locations (e.g. stores, private homes) and for any public locations. 

Get written permission for any music, images or text created by someone other than yourself that you use in your film. Always refer to your educator/mentor if you are ever unsure about the borrowed material in your project. 



How can I avoid copyright or release hassles?

1. Try your best to keep identifiable copyrighted images, such as commercial logos, out of your project.

2. Do not use clips from other films, videos, or TV programs. 

3. Use all original music, audio, images, or ones that are in the "public domain". 

4. Find music and other material that the creators have agreed to make available for sharing. Creative Commons, for example, runs a great website that enables people to share their creative work with the public in a legal way. 

*IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are producing a film that will be viewed only in your school classes, or by friends, teachers, family, etc., it is probably safe to assume that any legal copyright action against you would be unlikely. However, if your film is a hit at school and with friends and family, you might want to enter it in film festivals and contests that would require adherence to copyright laws. It may be difficult to go back and get the necessary releases and permissions after your film has been made.


Release Forms Gallery