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Using Copyrighted, Creative Commons, and Public Domain Materials

Using Copyrighted, Creative Commons, and Public Domain Materials Activity: Mixing It Up: Using and Modifying Creative Materials

Instructions for Your Students

We bet you feel pretty confident that you'll never be pulled over by the © popo, because you know how to avoid copyright infringement by cruisin' in the public domain and Creative Commons zone. 

Today, you're going to put your newly-minted skills to work. You'll use the Internet to produce a creative masterpiece that's a mash-up of your own work, an old public domain story, and some public domain and Creative Commons illustrations.

Step 1: Take a look at the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This is a great example of how an old work in the public domain (Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) has been reworked and used to make money (it was on the NY Times bestseller list for quite a while when it was first released).

Skim through Chapter 1 of the original Pride and Prejudice. Then skim through Chapter 1 of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. See what they did there? 

Step 2: Today, you're going to create your own mash-up, kind of like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here's what you'll need to do:

  • Begin with a public domain story (we have a few suggestions below).
  • Add your own original content to the story—and be creative!
  • Illustrate your story using public domain, Creative Commons, and/or original images.
  • Use at least 3–5 public domain or Creative Commons works (at least one must be Creative Commons).
  • When using Creative Commons materials, include attributions for the works.
  • You may work in a small group or individually.
  • Create your masterpiece in Microsoft Word or a shared Google Doc.

Step 3: To get started, select the public domain story (or poem) you want to use as a starting point. It's probably best if you choose a story you're already familiar with. Here are a few possibilities:

Step 4: Got your story (or poem)? Time to start reworking it and creating your own mash-up masterpiece. In order to find public domain and Creative Commons images to illustrate your work, visit the following websites:

  • Wikimedia Commons: This site includes images with all sorts of licenses. Permissions are listed below the images, so you can tell whether images are copyrighted (off limits for this activity), public domain, or Creative Commons.
  • Creative Commons Search: Use this tool to search for CC images on Flickr, Google Images, and many other sites.

Step 5 (Optional): If there's class time, share your work with your classmates, either by presenting it or posting it somewhere in the room for a gallery walk.