Content and Open Licenses: Creating and Sharing

Each participant will draw an image and choose how they will distribute it according to internet licensing rights. This activity will enable participants to understand various important copyright and licensing issues online.

Target group
Age group
Proficiency level i
Level 0
Activity sheet
Copyright i
Creative Commons (BY-SA)
English, French , Français

General Objective

Skillset building

Preparation time for facilitator

less than 1 hour

Competence area

3 - Digital content creation

Time needed to complete activity (for learner)

0 - 1 hour

Name of author

Nothing 2hide

Resource originally created in

Workshop directions


The internet is teeming with images and films. However, every audio file, video and photo was originally created by an author who has the right to decide the way in which their content can be used and distributed. This workshop will allow participants to become familiar with various kinds of licenses that apply conditions to the use of online content.

Facilitation tips: This worksheet outlines differences between various Creative Commons licenses. If you are not familiar with these, we recommend you refer to the file dedicated to this subject. This activity will work effectively in tandem with Content, Licensing and Sharing: Free Online Resources. This latter activity informs on ways of finding free content (images, audio etc.) online.


Ask participants to each draw a cactus on an A4 sheet to be signed by them. This signature will define how they would like to be known by their audience (for example, it could be their real name, a pseudonym or something else). Invite participants to describe to the others, in their own words, what they would allow or not allow to be done with their work. If this idea is not clear for the group, you can ask supporting questions. For example:

  • Would you allow a corporation to use your cactus to advertise their product?
  • Would you accept that they be used by teachers in their fine arts classes?
  • Would you agree that they be used for a book cover?

Next, collect the drawings and place them in a row on the floor, from left to right – in order of the most free in terms of use to the most restrictive. Recite for every work the conditions of reuse (or for non-reuse) as described by the participants. This step will allow you to steer the discussion to open licenses. For example, suppose a person authorises the reuse of their work only in an educational context on the condition that the author be cited. This would adhere closely with the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC.

CC BY what? Open Licenses

Explain CC licenses.

Discussion: Together, you should go through and explain the following relevant legal ideas.

Rights reserved

The author of the work can decide not to allow the work to be reused by indicating ‘all rights reserved’, which will mean that no one will be able to use, copy, reproduce, publish, impart, distribute or change their work, through whatever form or by whatever method, without their written authorisation.

Public domain

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the idea of public domain. Copyright restrictions do not apply to works in the public domain. They can be reused and distributed freely without condition. This is, for example, this case of Giant Steps by John Coltrane, which entered public domain in 2018. These could be works which cannot be protected, works for which the author has simply allowed free and unlimited access or indeed works for which the copyright has expired. Copyright duration varies by country. To take France as an example, copyright there lasts 70 years from the death of the work’s author. For example, Disney has been contesting for 90 years to avoid that its mascot Mickey Mouse fall into public domain. Thus, any person who uses Mickey’s image (for a logo, on a t-shirt or whatever product) must have the authorisation of Disney without which a penalty will be applied. Works protected by copyright assure their authors a strict degree of control over their distribution. This can be the subject of a contract and subject to commercial negotiation (the author could for example be compensated for every use of their work). This is the case with press photos for example, as with films or series. Conversely, works in the public domain can be reused and distributed freely.

Open licenses and Creative Commons

Between these two designations – copyright and public domain – there is fortunately a wide range of nuance allowing authors to authorise reuse of their works under flexible conditions. These is referred to as open licensing. The most common open licenses are Creative Commons licenses. Creative Commons licenses allow authors of a work to allocate, vis-à-vis their works, precise permissions to members of the public. These are obtained by combining the following elements:

  1. The attribution of the work to the author
  2. The authorisation of the modification of the work
  3. The obligation to share the work in the same conditions
  4. The authorisation of commercial use of the work


Attribution (BY)

Sharing in the same conditions (SA = Share alike)

Modification of the work is not authorised (ND = no derivative works)

Commercial use is not authorised (NC = non commercial use)

By combining symbols we thus define the terms of the Creative Commons license of a work.

Which licensing is most suitable for your work?

Once explained, ask participants which Creative Commons license they would assign to their works: CC, CC BY, CC BY-SA etc. If they have changed their ideas regarding their cactus’ usage conditions since the first exercise, ask them why. Show also the Creative Commons site which allows, in responding to two simple questions, the simple assignment of an open license to a work.

Going further

There is virtually endless free content online. To find it, follow the activity Content, Licensing and Sharing: Free Online Resources.