Creative Commons in schools

“Universal access to research, education and participation in culture” – Creative Commons Aotearoa goal.

I recently attended one of the sessions being held around the country by Creative Commons Aotearoa, featuring guest presenters included Matt McGregor, Keitha Booth, Andrew Matangi, Ian Munro and Stephen Lethbridge. Together, they offered a quick-fire overview of the issues, challenges and opportunities for schools who want to explore assigning open licenses – in this case, Creative Commons (CC) licenses –  to the content developed and shared by schools.

For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a summary – and you can also access audio files via CC_Aotearoa:):

The big issue

We are moving to a culture in which it is easier and beneficial for us to share our work as educators. This raises issues of intellectual property (IP) and ownership of educational digital content. Currently, all resources produced by teachers under the terms of their employment are not owned by them as individual but by their Board of Trustees.  While a teacher sharing a worksheet online that they don’t technically might seem a small quibble, on a national scale it amounts to teachers often inadvertently breaching rules related to intellectual property and copyright.

Assigning open licenses to the work of a school is one way to address this issue – as part of a more collaborative approach to sharing practices –  and several schools in New Zealand have already made the move.


Why schools should consider a policy for licensing school-created content

…via Matt McGregor (@CC_Aotearoa)

  • We are moving to a read-write culture
  • It’s getting easer to share and reuse content e.g. Flickr, DigitalNZ, Mix and Mash
  • Potential for sharing massive amount of educational resources, to save time/money/frustration
  • Teachers don’t own copyright to their resources made while employed – and schools don’t have clear/or indeed any at all IP policies on sharing and reuse

…via Ian Munro – Ministry of Education

  • Teachers are far less possessive over their own resources and are far more willing to share and collaborate. In a digital environment, we are encouraging schools to work collaborative but IP is a challenge to determine this in a collaborative environment.
  • Reuse, Remix, Repurpose – the new 3 Rs
  • Availability of resources is easy – but attitudes can be lax in relation to resource management in schools and when we change schools. Teachers don’t always accept that ownership sits with the BoT.
  • Schools would benefit from a clear policy on digital ownership.
  • Example: Following the Christchurch earthquake, digital resources were vitally needed, to be shared fairly and openly. The Ministry asked NZ schools to share high quality NCEA resources. Issues they found included:
    • IP – who owned it?
    • Different file formats
    • Excessive file size
    • Location of files – sometimes not accessible
    • No methodical organisation of files/folders
    • No naming scheme
  • When we aim to share resources, we need to think about: ownership & IP; organizing; file names; formats; metadata; file type/storage; location

…via  The Taupaki Story – Stephen Lethbridge (@stephen_tpk)

  • In this “age of the mash-up”, educators need mental models that advocate collaboration, open practice, and respect for ownership; if it’s good enough for the students…
  • From policy to practice: Stephen shared what intellectual property might look like in school, as they have already made the move towards assigning open licences to their work.


 Considerations for schools

…Licenses explained via Andrew Matangi (@AndrewMatangi)

  • CC licenses can protect both user and author in relation to reuse of resources and copyright; Creative Commons licences explained.
  • There are 2 groups of 3 licenses (=6 in total), from least to most restrictive (non-commercial)

  • The BY (attribution) is the stem of all licenses: It means that you must attribute it to the author.
  • Licenses come in 3 versions: the license symbol, human readable, lawyer readable;)
  • “Fair dealing”: This refers to exceptions to copyright infringement: In New Zealand, this includes the use of content for research/private study, criticism or review, and the reporting current events. Fair dealing asks: how much is being used? What is the impact on the market? What is the nature and purpose of work

…Guidance on applying open licenses via Keitha Booth (@keithabooth):

  • NZGOAL: This initiative provides advice on applying open licenses – the preferred licenses are CC.
  • is being broadened to include education
  • Under this Government initiative, the Ministry of Education MUST participate; N4L encouraged to participate. This is because:
    • Enables Boards of Trustees to lead in their school
    • Avoids making us all “criminals” when we access and download resources under copyright
    • Two positive examples: The CC search engine and Te Ara’s position on copyright 


…N4L Portal, ‘Pond’, and copyright – Presented by Ian on behalf of Carolyn Stuart, N4L

In the Pond portal:

  • The individual user must assign their own free-to-use license when sharing content. This needs schools to develop a policy on licensing and IP so teachers can share their schools’ resources openly.
  • The portal is intended to be a place to share and reuse resources (CC-BY)


Questions for schools to consider:

  • Is your school happy for your staff to share outside of your organisation?
  • Who determines what is shared and with whom? Individual teachers? Students? School policy?
  • How will you educate users about copyright?


  • Q: What if you upload content that’s not yours to the N4L portal?
  • A: Responsibility sits with the uploader and possibly also BoT.
  • Q: Can someone take your openly shared work, alter it and add their own open license?
  • A: Yes, depending on the license you assigned in the first place. If you attribute a CC-BY license to your own work, someone can use it and add their own twist and add another license.
  • Q: When can teachers create their “own” work, owned by them?
  • A: If it’s not “in the course of your employment” then it’s yours. Consider: Is it secondary employment?


Image credits:

  1. ‘ Creative Commons Swag Contest’ by Tyler Stefanich [source] [CC BY 3.0 US]
  2. Creative Commons licences by Creative Commons Aotearoa [source] [CC BY 3.0]
  3. ‘Sharing’ by Ryan R [source] [CC BY-NC 2.0]

3 thoughts on “Creative Commons in schools

  1. Hi, great topic. Particularly in terms of leaving a position and applying for another one – how do you share ‘your projects’ that you have worked on in your classroom which may actually belong to the school? It creates quite the dilemma and at what point, if any, can the teacher say, ‘well, I’m not happy for you to have that content on your site?’


    1. Thanks, Rob, and great question, Fleur. I guess the key is for schools as a whole to review the way their licence the work of their teachers. At the moment, in theory, if you take ‘your’ work to another school, it’s not technically yours, if you produced it in the last school. The same applies in the corporate world, too. Anyone with good grounds could challenge the appearance of content online if it clearly contravenes copyright. Tricky, eh?


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