Digital Storytelling

From The University of Scranton Research Guides

Jump to: navigation, search



Many people assume that if an image or video is freely available on the Internet, that means they can use it however they want. Most of the content on the web, though, is protected by copyright restrictions. How do you know what you can appropriately use?

Fair Use

United States copyright law allows you to use copyrighted works for educational purposes, without securing permission from the original creator, in very limited ways. However, fair use is kind of a murky area.

Some guidance on fair use:

Creative Commons and Public Domain

Instead of relying on fair use, you can also search for images or videos that have Creative Commons licenses. The creators of these materials have decided to allow others to share, remix, or otherwise use their content, under certain conditions that are described in their CC license. Always check the license to understand what those conditions are.

Some materials are in the public domain, which means they are owned by the public, so their use is unrestricted by intellectual property laws. You can always use public domain resources without obtaining permission from the original creator. Works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain, as are most U.S. governmental publications. For other published and unpublished works, public domain status can be a little more complicated.

Where to Search for Images

  • Flickr - Lots of amazing photos. You can limit your search to Creative Commons-licensed images by going to "Advanced Search," scroll all the way to the bottom, and select "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content"
  • Google Advanced Image Search - Like Flickr, you can limit your search to Creative Commons-licensed images. Under "Usage Rights," select "Only images labeled for reuse."
  • MorgueFile - a collection of free images with very liberal licenses
  • Creativity103 has CC-licensed abstract backgrounds and video footage
  • Open Clip Art Library is a collection of public domain clip art, freely contributed by users
  • The Digital Comic Museum contains some beautiful and unique Golden Age comics, the copyright status of which has all been researched and confirmed to be public domain. They're free, but you do have to set up an account in order to download.
  • Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online
  • New York Public Library Digital Gallery
  • World Images - from the University of California, this collection of images is CC-licensed.

Where to Search for Music and Video

  • YouTube - after running a search, you can click "Filter" and then "Creative Commons" to limit to CC-licensed videos.
  • Artist Server - a database of free music by independent artists. Not all of the music is CC-licensed (and there's no easy way to filter a search for CC-licensed music only), but each song has its copyright restrictions clearly marked.
  • dig.CCMixter - a site specifically designed to provide CC-licensed music to be used in podcasts or video recordings
  • Internet Archive - a nonprofit site that preserves images, documents, and film. Most of the videos on the site are either public domain or Creative Commons-licensed (check the license to be sure!).
  • Freeplay Music - Freeplay "grants free master recording and synchronization rights to students, to the FPM Production Music Library, excluding the FPM Indie Artist and Sound Effects Library, when FPM music is used by students within a school or class assignment."
  • SoundCloud - searchable by genre, duration, tempo - and you can limit to CC-licensed works.
  • MusicShake - make your own music.

Other Useful Tools


No matter what the copyright status of the materials you use in your digital storytelling, always be sure to credit your source. Check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab for help citing electronic resources in APA format.


The Colgate Visual Resources Library has suggested this format for citing Flickr photos in APA style:


The University of Illinois Library has some good advice on citing YouTube videos:

"With YouTube videos, it is important to distinguish between the creator of the content and the person who posted the content. If the creator of the video is credited, put their name in the author position (Creator). Next include the name or screen name of the person who posted the video (Poster), followed by the date posted, the title, and the URL. If no creator is listed, put the poster in the first spot."


APA citation of interviews is a little complicated. The APA manual says that unpublished interviews (e.g., you conduct your own interview with someone and don't publish it anywhere) only need to be cited "in text" rather than in a final reference list. But your digital story doesn't really have "in text" citations. What I'd like to see is a citation for your interview *somewhere*, whether it's typed somewhere in your digital story before, during, or after the interview clip. Here's the format (with Y. Martel being the person you're interviewing):

  • (Y. Martel, personal communication, April 15, 2005)

In general, do your best - include as much information as you can.

Need help?

Ask Kristen or any of the UofS librarians!

This page was last modified on 12 March 2012, at 15:24. This page has been accessed 12,239 times.