10 Resources for Copyright and Royalty Free Media

A long time ago, in a pre-computer media landscape when copying and pasting meant you actually got to play with scissors and glue, teachers and students created multimedia projects with little regard to copyright law. Images from magazines, corporate logos, and other media were used with reckless abandon to create visually and aurally pleasing projects. Before the dawn of the internet, these types of projects were hung in hallways, classrooms, and refrigerators with great care, and for the most part, didn’t cause much of a stir with copyright holders.

However, with the proliferation of dozens of social media sharing websites, many educators’ lack of clear understanding of copyright law and fair use (at no fault of their own, it can get complicated), and the ability for all of these wonderful projects to go digital and posted to the web, the battles and issues with copyright holders can produce paralyzing anxiety over what can be remixed, repurposed, and shared online. So I thought, what the heck, let’s make things simple today, and share 13 resources that host copyright free materials (images, videos, photos, music, etc.) for use in any project that you want to publish anywhere on the web, and not have to worry about any legalities.



Free Sound Project

What’s There: Big database of user created sound effects, foley effects, music clips, instruments, and more.

Freedom to Use: All audio clips on the site have Creative Commons licenses, so while some can’t be used for commercial purposes, all of the sound clips can be used for educational projects with just an attribution to the creator.

Why I like It: It has create short clips of instruments and notes that I can string together to create background music or effects. Also love that you can preview all of the clips in the browser before downloading, and use their large collection of sounds effects for great foley effects in my videos or podcasts.



What’s There: Nice collection of royalty free music.

Freedom to Use: Once an audio track is purchased, it’s yours to use for ANYTHING, with just a simple attribution in the credits of the project.

Why I like It: It follows the iTunes model of “pay per track”, but unlike iTunes you can use the track you purchase for just about anything. While it’s not actually free (99¢ per track isn’t exactly breaking the bank though), you gain the right to use the tracks you’ve purchased for any of your projects, whether they’re commercial or not. You get the rights for 99 years, so chances are you’ll be gone before you need to worry about anything.


SoundCloud CreativeCommons

What’s There: Growing collection of sound clips, sound effects, and audio tracks.

Freedom to Use: All of the tracks in the Creative Commons section of SoundCloud are available for you to use with attribution, although some are limited to non-commercial projects only.

Why I like It: SoundCloud has a unique media player that allows you to embed sound and music clips into other webpages. It also allows users to comment on the sound clips, directly on the media’s timeline, so you can leave a comment in time with the music at a particularly nice section of the clip. Like all good social media platforms, you can follow audio creators you like, so you can keep up on their creations.


Vimeo Music Store

What’s There: Growing collection of background music for video projects on Vimeo.

Freedom to Use: While there are many paid tracks in the Vimeo music store, searching just the Creative Commons or FREE tracks will reward you with a bountiful list of tunes using a Creative Commons license that only requires you to give attribution for the music you’re using.

Why I like It: I already use Vimeo quite a bit, so it’s nice to have these tracks at my disposal from such a creative community. However, even NON Vimeo users can download the FREE tracks without having to login, so that’s an extra bonus! When downloading the track, a little pop up reminding you of the exact license of that track, so you know what you can and can’t do with it.

Still Images



What’s There: One of the oldest, and still growing,  collections of free images for education.

Freedom to Use: The images found on Pics4Learning are all owned by the original photographers, but they’ve allowed Pics4Learning to share the images for use in any classroom, and shared in any media project, no matter where it’s posted, so long as the images aren’t used for any commercial purpose.

Why I like It: Pics4Learning is the “great grandaddy” of free media resources for education. It’s easy to navigate through the categories of images, or search using keywords. As an added bonus, each image comes with a pre-formatted citation, so citing the images is as simple as a quick copy and paste.


Open ClipArt

What’s There: A large collection of free clipart, all part of the Public Domain.

Freedom to Use: All of the images on this site have been donated to Public Domain, so they’re all free for the taking.

Why I like It: Since the entire collection is comprised of Public Domain images, you don’t even have to cite your resources if you don’t need to. Although I would certainly make sure students are still citing their sources, there’s no attribution you need to give, and you can take, remix, or change anything you want from this site. Extra geeky bonus! All of the images are available in the SVG and PNG format, so you can grab the PNG version for most uses, or the SVG format if you want to manipulate, or alter the images.


 Flickr Creative Commons

What’s There: A GIANT collection of free images to use, submitted by people all around the world.

Freedom to Use: Everything in the Creative Commons section of Flickr is free for anyone to use. All of the licenses are very clear, and will tell you if you need to give attribution to the photographer, and whether or not you can change it, or use it for commercial purposes.

Why I like It: As of the time of publishing on this post there are close to 30 MILLION images on Flickr that are free for anyone to use, for any purpose, public, commercial, or otherwise, and all you have to provide is attribution to the original photographer. Can’t get better than that!



Next Vista For Learning

What’s There: Online library of free short videos for students, teachers, and learners created by students, teachers, and learners.

Freedom to Use: These videos are all free for students, teachers, and educators.

Why I like It: The videos are all under 5 minutes (one of the Next Vista’s main stipulations) so that you can find relevant video that fit well into a discussion and don’t abuse the attention span of viewers. Videos are all created by other learners, so students get to watch other students, not adults. Did I also mention that the entire site is free? Videos all include a handy download link for offline usage.


Internet Archive – Movie Archive

What’s There: Hundreds of thousands of public domain video clips, films, community submitted clips, and older historical news reels.

Freedom to Use: “Near unrestricted” use of the videos on this site is its main selling point. Some videos are only available for streaming, but all downloadable videos are in the public domain, and available for use in any media projects.

Why I like It: I was first drawn to this site for it’s amazing collection of those old corny instructional films and public service announcements, but have used it for much more since then. There are thousands of great short video clips in the Arts category that would be useful for abstract video backgrounds during student news casts. From sports videos to animations and cartoons, there’s a LOT to dig through. Some of the content might be more appropriate for older students, so check it out before heading there with your class.


National Park Service B-Roll Video Archive

What’s There: Public Domain video clips from a number of different U.S. National Parks and Monuments.

Freedom to Use: Public Domain video means you can download, remix, republish, and use this video in any media project you want to.

Why I like It: This site has great footage for shots of nature and famous landmarks, monuments, and parks around the U.S. so it would work well for video reports, video essays, or just some really nice scenery. All of the footage is professional quality, and available in H.264 format, so it’s highly compatible with lots of software.

These are by no means an exhaustive list of sites that host copyright or royalty free media for special projects, but I find myself going to these sites quite often when looking for media to put into projects that I intend to publish on the web, and share with the world. When I don’t want to worry about seeking permission, and just need something fast that I can safely provide attribution for in the credits or notes, these are the places I head to. They’re great for use with students and other teachers that might be looking for some stock places to go to get media for special projects, video essays, or video production classes that need lots of media on a regular basis. More importantly, it’s great to share these resources with teachers and students that find themselves confused or apprehensive about copyright fair use, and want to start simply, with media that clearly states how they can be used fairly.


  1. Thank you for the useful list. I frequently use Flickr to share images and get free images. There are many good quality images over there. I also like picasso album.

  2. Hi!

    I liked this list. Thanks for providing the free information. National Park Service is something new to me. I am interested in history and would love to watch those videos.


  3. Hey Ben,

    Thanks for this list. I checked out the National Parks videos and on the same site followed a link to the NPS Digital Image Archive. They apparently have a large collection of public domain images from the National Park System as well.


      1. Oh great, thanks a lot Ben. I should be approving new photos on Pics4Learning, but I have been completely sidetracked with this awesome stream of historical images! 🙂

        Wishing I was a social studies teacher right now.

  4. I am interested in history and would love to watch those videos..Thanks for providing the free information. National Park Service is something new to me.

  5. Good to hear that people are taking advantage of the Flickr Creative Commons photos. There are thousands of really good photos that can be used for free (with attribution, of course) on Flickr. Just takes a little time to weed through the not-so-good photos so get to the gold.

    1. Flickr is one of those sites that should be unblocked in schools, but still finds itself behind a LOT of filters unfortunately. There’s so much there, and the tools for creating groups and discussion are great.

  6. This is a really helpful list. I am currently taking a technology course for Grad School, and we have focused a great deal on the use of copyrighted images in technology-based lessons. The Library of Congress Flickr stream was a new site for me; I’m curious to know if you know of any international sites that are similar? I am developing a webquest for the novel In the Time of the Butterflies, and looking for content that focuses on the Dominican Republic, but haven’t found anything similar to the LoC and NPS links.

    1. You could probably come up with a lot of great stuff on the Flickr Creative Commons collection, although Panoramio (http://www.panoramio.com/) might be a nice place to go as well. Most of the images there are copyright the original owner, but you could easily use them within your classroom if you aren’t going to be republishing them online.

  7. Hi,

    For cheap royalty free music, Rookieloops.co.uk is hard to beat. The tracks are only £0.99 and free to use however you like.



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