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Audiovisual Material in Europeana Classroom

This Task Force investigated how to increase the availability and reusability of audiovisual material in Europeana Classroom and for educators in general, including looking at how to increase the use of the Unified Media Player in education.

Posted on Thursday December 10, 2020

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

1 January 2021 to 30 September 2021
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Studenten van het ROC-A12 te Ede te gast bij Lukkien voor een workshop radio-opname
Koster, Gert Jan
Gemeentearchief Ede

The activities of the Task Force will contribute to making it easy and rewarding for cultural heritage institutions to share high-quality content and engage people on the Europeana website and via participatory campaigns. This Task Force aimed to build on the work of previous Audiovisual Media in Europeana Task Forces, with a specific focus on educational use. 


The ambition of the Task Force was to identify both opportunities and challenges faced by educators and audiovisual collection holders when trying to place audiovisual content in an educational context. Recommendations were formulated based on previous work, an online survey for educators, and hands-on, co-creative work on six case studies selected and conducted by the Task Force members. These were developed into recommendations built around five key areas: Media Literacy, Co-creation and Dialogue, Multilingual access, Resources allowing deeper and creative interaction (My Profile and Galleries, Crowdsourcing, Unified Media Player) and Copyright.

Information about the work undertabken can be found in a White Paper produced by the Task Force, which you can download below. You can also explore the answers to frequently asked questions around copyright and education for audiovisual content, which the Task Force developed as part of a case study on Copyright in Education. Get a quick overview of this information in a Europeana Pro news post.


Copyright in Education FAQs

The Europeana Task Force on Audiovisual Material in Europeana Classroom developed a case study on Copyright in Education to help teachers across the EU use audiovisual content lawfully and safely. The five frequently asked questions below have been extracted from 96 responses to an online survey aimed at understanding what teachers across the EU need or want to know about copyright. 

1. I’m a teacher. Can I copy and use anything I find on the web for educational purposes?

Certain educational uses of copyright protected works – such as films, music, books, and images – are allowed in most EU countries. These are known as copyright exceptions and enable teachers to use protected materials in education without having to get permission from the copyright owner (see Q4 below). In general, using protected materials requires permission from the copyright owner. Many educational institutions hold licences that allow their staff to use protected materials in certain ways. At the same time, copyright law offers various opportunities to reuse existing materials without permission. For example, you don’t need permission to use materials that are in the public domain because the copyright term has expired (usually 70 years after the death of the author, see Q4), or because the work has been dedicated to the public domain with the CC0 tool. On the Europeana website, you can find many books, music, artworks and other works in the public domain, which you are free to use however you want. Below each item available on Europeana, you will find a rights statement or a Creative Commons mark indicating the copyright status of the work. This is how the ‘Public Domain Mark’ and the ‘CC0 Public Domain Dedication’ look:


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This means that the work is not protected by copyright, usually because the copyright term has expired (see Q4)

A picture containing logo

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This means that the copyright owner of the work has dedicated it to the public domain.

Any item with the Public Domain or CC0 label can be used for free, without having to worry about copyright. For example, you are free to use this self-portrait by Van Gogh, this 3D model of a Neolithic axehead, or this photograph of the American jazz pianist Tommy Flanagan. These items are in the public domain meaning that everyone, including you and your students, can reuse, edit, adapt, and share them for free.

Other works that everyone can use for free are those distributed under Creative Commons licences (CC). These items are protected by copyright, but the copyright owner has given permission to everyone to use the work under certain conditions. There are six types of CC licences, which are all different combinations of the following four conditions:


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Attribution (BY)

All CC licence have the attribution requirement. This means that you should credit the authors of the work you are using. For example, the most open CC licence is CC BY, which allows everyone to reuse the work in any way, also commercially, under the only condition of crediting the authors.


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ShareAlike (SA)

If a CC licence includes the ShareAlike (SA) condition, it means that you can reuse the work for free but whatever you create with it (e.g. a teaching resource) will have to be distributed under the same CC licence. 


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NonCommercial (NC)

This condition is quite self-explanatory: you can reuse the work but not for purposes that are primarily commercial. You can find more information on the meaning of ‘NonCommercial’ on the CC wiki


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NoDerivs (ND)

This is probably the most restrictive condition you can find in a CC licence. It means that while you can reuse the item as it is (e.g. showing it in the classroom), if you remix, adapt or build upon the item (e.g. using a clip of a CC BY-ND video in a new video), then you cannot distribute the modified material.

You can find more information and guidance on the Creative Commons website. And you can find lots of interesting CC materials on Europeana, such as most of the items in the gallery ‘Vaccines in history’. You may also consider distributing your own teaching materials and resources under open licences, allowing other teachers to reuse and build upon them. The UK National Lottery Heritage Fund offers accessible and useful guidance on open licences and public domain dedications.

Works that are labelled with the In Copyright statement can be used with permission from the copyright owner or under copyright exceptions (see Q4). Certain items on Europeana are labelled with the Educational Use Permitted statement: these items are protected by copyright but you don’t need permission if you are using them for educational purposes. 

2. I found an incredible video for my lessons on YouTube. Can I use it?

As any other copyright material, videos on YouTube can be used either with permission from the copyright owner (usually the creator of the video) or under copyright exceptions (see Q4). The Standard YouTube Licence only allows users to watch or listen to the content for personal, non-commercial use. However, if you want to screen a YouTube video for educational purposes (e.g. to prompt a discussion with your students on certain topics), this is likely to be allowed by copyright exceptions.

Some videos on YouTube are distributed under Creative Commons licences (see Q1 above). You can filter your search on YouTube by videos distributed under CC, as shown in the screenshot below:

A screenshot showing a Youtube search for 'Teaching Maths' highlighting how you can search for 'Creative Commons' under 'Features'
Screenshot of Youtube search
A screenshot showing a Youtube search for 'Teaching Maths' highlighting how you can search for 'Creative Commons' under 'Features'

A great source of audiovisual content that can be used in the classroom is EUscreen. The EUscreen portal offers free online access to thousands of items of audiovisual heritage, bringing together clips that provide insights into the social, cultural, political and economic events that have shaped the 20th and 21st centuries. Below each EUscreen item you will find their terms of use by clicking on the © button. If you wish to use the items for purposes that go beyond educational non-commercial viewing, you can either rely on copyright exceptions or get in touch with the content provider (contact details are available below the terms of use of each item). 

3. So when and how should I credit the author/source of the A/V media? Can you give me some examples?

It is always good practice to credit the author and source of the audiovisual content you use for educational purposes. It is often also legally required: in addition to economic rights, in most jurisdictions authors hold moral rights such as the right of attribution, that is the right to be identified as the author of the work. Certain copyright exceptions explicitly require acknowledgement of the authors. All Creative Commons licences also require attribution (BY, see Q1). So whether you are using an audiovisual work with permission from the copyright owner (e.g. under a CC or other licence), under a copyright exception or because copyright in the work has expired, it is always advisable to credit the authors of the work. When using Europeana items, credits should include the title of the work and its authors, the date of creation, the source (institution and country providing the item) and type of licence or copyright status (e.g. Public Domain). You should check the copyright act of your country to find out who is considered the author of certain types of work and thus who should be credited. 

For example, under UK copyright law the authors of a film are the producer and the principal director. So if you wanted to include a frame or a clip from e.g. Segundo de Chomón’s Voyage sur Jupiter (1909) in a slide presentation, you could provide acknowledgement as follows:

Voyage sur Jupiter (1909). Directed by Segundo de Chomón. Catalunya Film Archive, Spain - Public Domain.
Voyage sur Jupiter
Segundo de Chomón
Catalunya Film Archive
Voyage sur Jupiter (1909). Directed by Segundo de Chomón. Catalunya Film Archive, Spain - Public Domain.

Beyond legal considerations, it is always good practice to cite, reference, and point others toward where they can find the source materials you have used, so that other teachers can use them too. The Europeana website has a new functionality that helps you do just that. When you download an item from the Europeana website, you will automatically get a message providing the relevant information to include in the credits. You can also find usage guidelines for metadata here: 

In some jurisdictions, such as the UK, you don’t need to credit the authors if this is impossible for ‘reasons of practicality or otherwise’. For example, if you use a copyright work when setting up an exam question and giving attribution would ruin the question, then you don’t need to credit the authors. Whenever possible and practical though, it is advisable and often legally required to credit the authors of the works you use for education.

Beyond legal considerations, it is always good practice to cite, reference, and point others toward where they can find the source materials you have used, so that other teachers can use them too.

4. What are copyright exceptions? Is copyright forever?

Copyright does not last forever. In most EU countries, copyright protection generally lasts for 70 years after the death of the author (or of the last surviving author in the case of a work of joint authorship). After that, the works of the author enter the public domain and everyone can use them for free. This means that you are free to use Van Gogh’s paintings, James Joyce’s novels, Mozart’s compositions, Pirandello’s plays and many other public domain works however you want, in education and beyond. As they rely on more recent technological developments, most films and television programmes from the 20th century are still protected by copyright. However, some great old films such as those by Georges Méliès are in the public domain in many jurisdictions.

In certain cases, determining whether a work is out of copyright can be complicated, especially if you are dealing with large scale digitisation projects (see for example the guidance on copyright duration in the UK on the Copyright Cortex website). However, two basic considerations are useful when dealing with public domain materials:

  1. Copyright law is territorial, meaning that different rules apply in different countries. A work might be in the public domain in one country under the life + 70 years rule but not in another like the United States (for guidance on copyright duration in the US, see here). However, if you are dealing with very old materials like Shakespeare’s plays or Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings, you can safely assume they are in the public domain everywhere.

  2. A recording of a public domain work may be protected by copyright. For example, while Beethoven’s compositions are in the public domain, a sound recording of one of his compositions published less than 70 years ago may be protected. You are free to use the public domain composition (e.g. you or your students can perform it), but you may need permission to use the sound recording. You can also find sound recordings of public domain compositions distributed under CC licences, e.g. on the Incompetech website

Copyright exceptions are cases in which under certain circumstances one can use copyright protected works without permission from the copyright owner. These uses are permitted by law because they are considered to be socially, culturally, politically or economically beneficial. Education is one of them. Most jurisdictions allow certain educational uses of protected materials, at least in the classroom. However, as with the public domain, copyright exceptions are territorial and vary from country to country, which makes it difficult to rely on them for online uses. You can check which copyright exceptions apply in your country using the interactive map, developed by Kennisland and currently being updated by COMMUNIA. The Horizon 2020 consortium ReCreating Europe is also working with COMMUNIA to map copyright exceptions in the EU. ReCreating Europe is developing the EU version of the website (currently based on UK copyright law), which will provide accessible guidance also on EU copyright exceptions. A new Copyright Directive is being implemented and should ensure that all EU member states will have a copyright exception for teaching (although as it has been noted the implementation may be different in each country). If you are interested in keeping up to date with copyright developments, you can also join the Europana Copyright Community.

5. Where can I find open source materials I can use without having to worry about copyright?

The Europeana website  a great starting point. It gives you access to millions of books, music, artworks and more, clarifying the copyright status of each item with rights statements and Creative Commons marks (see Q1).  On Europeana Classroom you can also find many educational resources and learning scenarios that use digital culture freely available on Europeana.

Other sources of free to use materials include:

  • Wikimedia Commons: a collection of over 75 million images, sound and videos that freely usable under Creative Commons and other open licences. 

  • Wikibooks: a collection of thousands of open-content textbooks that anyone can edit.

  • Flickr and Pixabay: as many other similar websites, offer images that are free to use under Creative Commons or other open licences.

  • Prelinger Archives: a collection of over 60,000 films (mostly “ephemeral”) that are in the public domain in the US (so bear in mind territoriality, see Q4).

  • Incompetech: royalty-free music recorded by Kevin MacLeod. 

  • NASA content: works produced by the US federal government are generally not protected by copyright. These include most of the images, audio and videos created by NASA.

  • The Open Content Toolkit created by the ENA Education community member Theodore Kuechel.

These FAQs were written by Bartolomeo Meletti, Education and Research Executive at Learning on Screen (UK) as well as Creative Director for the CREATe Centre at the University of Glasgow, and Rafael Montero,a Secondary MathsTeacher at Colegio Corazón de María (Spain) and the Europeana Teacher Ambassador for Spain.