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How to find Creative Commons materials using Google

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Creative Commons Information Pack

for Teachers and Students

This information guide was jointly developed by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation through Creative Commons Australia and the National Copyright Unit of the COAG Education Council.

For further information contact Creative Commons Australia at info@creativecommons.org.au

Google is one of the most commonly used search engines in the world, but did you know you can use Google to find Creative Commons (CC) licensed content? Using Google Advanced Search, you are able to search for material by keyword and refine your results to show only material available that has certain ‘usage rights’.

This guide was created to help teachers, students and curriculum units find CC licensed material using Google’s Advanced Search. It forms one part of an information pack on CC for the education sector. It is advised that you first read information guide ‘What is Creative Commons?’ for a simple and helpful introduction to CC.

Finding CC materials using Google Advanced Search

Below is a step-by-step guide to using the Google Advanced Search to find content released under certain ‘usage rights’. Google Advanced Search is best used to search for CC material across a number of different websites or to search within websites that do not provide their own search system. To search for CC material in Flickr or on Blip.tv, it is recommended that you use the CC Search Portal.

Step 1.  Start a Google Advanced Search

There are many ways to get to Google’s Advanced Search options. You can access it directly by typing www.google.com/advanced_search into the address bar on your web browser. Alternatively, most people will access the search options by going to the Google homepage (www.google.com) and clicking ‘Settings’ on the bottom right hand side of the webpage, and select ‘Advanced search’ within the drop-down menu (see below). This will bring you to the Google Advanced Search page (see step 2).

Step 2.  Filter results for what you want to do

By default Google search results are not filtered by licence. To filter your search results for CC licensed content, scroll down in advanced search and set “usage rights” parameters to be “Free to use, share, or modify”.

If you want content for commercial use be sure to select the appropriate option.

Select the option from this menu that is appropriate to your use.


All CC licences grant the user the right to use and distribute the licensed content. Therefore, if you select the 'free to use or share' option, your search will return content available under any of the CC licences.

If you restrict the results to material that can be used commercially, you will exclude content under a Noncommercial licence (eg Attribution-Noncommercial, Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike or Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works). Likewise, selecting the 'free to use share or modify' option will return results that you can legally remix (ie that do not have the No Derivative Works restriction).

If you select 'free to use, share or modify, even commercially', you will only return results under the two CC licences that allow both adaptation and commercial use
(ie Attribution and Attribution-Share Alike).

The table below shows how the drop-down menu filters the material by licence.

*   Please note that although this option will theoretically return results under a Creative Commons 
     licence, these will be amongst potentially millions of returned results that are not CC licensed.

Step 3.  Search for keywords

Now enter your keyword in the field at the top of the page and click ‘Advanced Search’ to begin your search.

You can also combine Google’s ‘usage rights’ search tool with other fields on the Google Advanced search page to refine your search even further. For example, you can search for CC within a particular site or domain, or in a particular language, or in a particular file format.