To make finding Creative Commons material as easy as possible, Creative Commons hosts a search portal on its website. Using the metadata that is part of all CC licences, the search portal can return results based on search terms and the type of use you want to make from a number of sources.

This guide was created to help you find CC licensed material using the CC Search Portal. It forms one part of ccAustralia’s fact sheets on finding CC materials. These information guides are designed to help you find CC licensed works. You can do this using many popular search engine and search tools. There are also a number of content repositories that allow you to search their website for CC licensed content. See also the other fact sheets on finding CC licensed material listed below.

The short link for this fact sheet is

Finding CC content fact sheets

Specific search tools

Searching for CC materials using the CC Search tool

Below is a step-by-step guide to using the search tools in CC Search Portal to find content released under Creative Commons licences. The CC Search Portal allows users to return very specific results from a number of sources. By reading the metadata embedded in the digital files of content licensed under Creative Commons, the search portal can find content that is available for certain kinds of uses, including works that are available for commercial reuse and works that are available for remixing. By limiting the search to specific sites that only include one type of content (eg videos, photos or music), the CC Search portal also lets you search for specific types of material. This can give it an advantage over the CC search tools provided by Google, Yahoo! and Mozilla Firefox.

It is important to consider how you want to use any CC material before you begin your search. This is because different CC licences let you do different things. Knowing what you want to do with the material will help you choose the licence that is suitable for your use. Important information

Step 1. Start a CC Search

There are two ways to get to the Creative Commons Search portal. You can access it directly by typing into the address bar on your web browser. Alternatively, you can get to it by selecting the ‘Find licensed content’ option on the search tool on the Creative Commons homepage (see right) which is on the right hand side of the top header of each page on the Creative Commons website.

Step 2. Choose the right licence for what you want to do

To filter material based on the type of use you want to make, go to the box at the top right hand side of the search query field. This gives you two options ‘Search for works I can use for commercial purposes’ and ‘Search for works I can modify, adapt or build upon’.

Select the option/s appropriate for your use. You can select one, both or none of the boxes.

For example, if you select ‘works I can use for commercial purposes’, the search engine will exclude content under a licence which prohibits commercial use (ie that includes the Non-commercial term). Similarly, selecting ‘works I can modify, adapt, or build upon’ will exclude results that you cannot change (ie under a No Derivative Works licence).

If you select both options, only results under the broadest CC licences, Attribution and the Attribution-Share Alike, will be returned. If you don’t select either of the boxes you will get material under all of the CC licences.

The table below shows how each option will filter the material by licence.

Filtering options

Neither Use for
Work I can
modify, adapt
or build upon



Step 3. Choosing the right type of material

Next you need to choose the type of content you are looking for. The Creative Commons Search Portal gives you access to a number of different search engines that let you search for different types of material. Each engine has its own tab on the search engine page.

If you want to find content of all types you can use the general Google and Yahoo! search tabs. Or you can limit your search to sites that only provide one type of content. The table below provides a summary of the type of content provided by each tab.

Search tab

Google Yahoo! Flickr OWL SpinXpress


Music and audio
Film and moving images

Step 4. Running the search

Now that you’ve chosen the type of licence and material you want to search for, you can enter keywords for your refined search in the search query field at the top of the page.

To run your search, you can press ‘Go’ or simply click on the tab you would like to search.


You are running a class project on river systems. The students are required to create a video on a river system of their choosing. In order to assist the students with this task, you are preparing a course pack that includes sample images for the students to use.

You want to conduct a search for CC images to include in the course pack. To do this you need to:

  1. Go to the Creative Commons Search tool.
  2. As the project is designed for classroom use, there is no need to exclude noncommercial content. However, it is likely that the students will want to adapt the images so you need to limit your search for works that can be adapted or modified.
  3. Enter ‘rivers’ into the into the Creative Commons Search Portal query field.
  4. Select the ‘Flickr’ tab to look for images only and start the search.

Your search returns a number of photos that are exactly the kind of images you were looking for. You insert them into your course pack, along with the appropriate attribution details. For information on how to attribute CC material, see our attribution guide.