How to access more then 500.000 public domain pictures directly from your CMS or blogg

When developing open educational resources, or just writing a blogg, most of us like to add pictures and illustrations. In the old paradigme this was both difficult and expensive. Over the last few years services offering pictures under a free license have been popping up to compete with commercial stock photo alternatives. is one of these services.

The project is an international website for sharing high quality public domain photos, illustrations, vector graphics, and film footage. In January 2016, Pixabay offered about 550,000 free photos, illustrations, and vectors and almost 1,300 films. They also offer a public Application Programming Interface (API) allowing third party users and website developers to search Pixabay’s image database.

In the demo at det bottom of this blogpost I will show you how I connect to the Pixabay API from WordPress without doing any programming of my own.

Pixabay is not the only provider of pictures and it is important to be aware of the differens between Royalty free and a free license, some of the free license ones that I have used are:

Royalty-free is not the same as a free license

When images are offered royalty-free, this simply means that the purchaser pays a fee and can then use the image without paying additional royalties or licensing fees. This also means the purchaser doesn’t have to give attribution. This is the model used by paid stock photo sites. The problem with this model is that every provider has their own rules and licenses and limitations.

Within the range of Creative commons licenses that require attribution the CC BY license is the most flexible and the CC BY-NC-ND is the most restricted and the part that says Non Commercial is in fact a bit problematic on its own.

Creative Commons Zero (CC0) is the most flexible: CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.

Pixaby that i use in my blogg license most of their pictures under CC0. In this demo I will show you how easy it is to connect directly to the API at Pixabay without writing any code. It takes about 2 minutes if you are using WordPress.

How to combine the Hollywood blockbuster The Hobbit and creative commons content in the same OER

Can you combine Copyright and Creative Commons? Yes you can!

After a meeting at the EU parlament on Copyright and IP related issues in October 2015 I have received several questions regarding copyright versus creative commons and more specifically how we at Norwegian digital learning arena(NDLA) combine the use of Copyright and CC license.

The main strategy at NDLA is to release content under Creative Commons BY SA but we also use NC on pictures and Copyright in some cases.

To explain this it is best to show an example from NDLA where we do this with a combination of text from our own staff, a picture from NTB Scanpix and the Hollywood blockbuster film made by Peter Jackson called The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug.

Skjermbilde 2016-01-09 kl. 11.40.45


These different parts all are released under different licenses:

  1. The text by Tina Andersson Jensen is released under Creative Commons BY SA
  2. The picture of Peter Jackson(top right) by Hannibal Hanschke is released under Creative Commons BY SA NC
  3. The full length movie is released with Copyright and with the limitation that it can only be accessed from IP adresses in Norway.

When combining resources like this it is important to be accurate in marking the different parts with the correct license. In the screenshot under the three different licenses are defined. When a user puts the cursor over the icon the license and relevant information shows in the black frame. (Norwegian text)

Skjermbilde 2016-01-09 kl. 11.48.41

What license to chose?

My personal opinion is that it is best to use Creative Commons BY or BY SA. When using NC(non-commercial) there are some problems in terms of “what is non-commercial” and how this term is to be interpreted.

New Zealand director Peter Jackson arrives for the European premiere of the adventure film 'The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug' in Berlin, Germany, 09 December 2013. The film will start screening in cinemas across Germany on 12 December 2013. Photo: HANNIBAL/dpa Creative commons by-nc-sa 2.0
Photo: NTB Scanpix, HANNIBAL/dpa – Creative commons by-nc-sa 2.0



This post will come in a new version soon. The Hobbit has be replaced with The King’s Speech on


My favorite TED talks from 2015

Some of the TED Talks  that I have watched in 2015 really made an impression on me and I have just set up a list of the ones that i rank as the best. These are not TED talks that where held in 2015, but talks that I have watched over the course of the last year and found to be inspiring.

Lawrence Lessig talking about how there is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens.

Clay Shirky on how internet will change government and how government can learn from open sources. 

Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

In this talk from 2005 Jimmy Wales recalls how he assembled “a ragtag band of volunteers,” gave them tools for collaborating and created Wikipedia, the self-organizing, self-correcting, never-finished online encyclopedia. 10 year later this talk is still super relevant and the idea behind wikipedia is still an inspiration.

What is the status on the free culture movement over a decade after the Lawrence Lessig book «free culture»?

When reading the book «free culture» for the second time(now in Norwegian) I started to reflect on how and if the situation on copyright, IP and free culture has changed since Lawrence Lessig publishes his book in 2004. Lessig was one of the early visionaries that pushed for a reform of our copyright laws and the way we practice law as the world around us is changing.  Lawrence Lessig was also one of the co-founders of Creative Commons that sparked a community sharing text, videos, pictures, learning resources and other works.

My thoughts on this is that in terms of the debate on copyright and IP one could argue that somethings haven’t changed at all, while if you look at the digital commons and the amount of digital content that is released the picture is totally different. We still read and hear stories on a weekly basis on how new laws and trade agreements effect our daily lives in terms of how we need to handle copyright. On the other hand over the last years we have seen the commons of resources growing exponentially making it easer to reuse free content.

The landscape around copyright, fair use and IP is still not easy to navigate

To elaborate I am going to start with a story that an Indian lawyer told me this week at a conference in New Delhi. In 2012 at one of the larger universities in Delhi they did as many others, they copied books and parts of books into learningresources that where used in classes.  This was based on a thought of «fair use» but still the publishers(Oxford university and others) decided to hammer on with a lawsuit. BUT……they did not go after the university, they went after the contracted photocopy shop with an 100.000 dollar lawsuit.  This was in 2012 and they got the courts to issue and «induction» ordering the activity to stop. The case is still unsolved.

This is an example that is very similar to some of the stories from Lessigs book from 2004, and the «tactics» of the copyright lobby seems to be the same, attacking the weakest link, in this case they attacked the pohotocopyer instead of the university. This is just one of many stories that shows that the landscape around copyright, fair use and IP is still not easy to navigate.

The commons is growing exponentially

«State of the Commons report» is an effort to measure the immeasurable scope of the commons by looking at the CC licensed content, along with content marked as public domain, that comprise the slice of the commons powered by CC tools. The report for 2015 was published on December 8th, 2015, and it is showing a very promising development for public domain and CC licensed content.

The number of  of CC licensed works have nearly tripled over the last 5 years


Picture from Creative Commons.

The number of public domain works have doubled over the last year


Picture from Creative Commons.

It might seem to me that the «producing part» of free culture community has moved passed that discussion and that we are in the middle of something that looks like a paradigme shift in terms of content released under a free license.

I am writing this post while attending the The Fourth Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest in New Delhi and my conclusion is that we need to secure that the lawyers and activist that work to secure the free culture aspects of the copyright battle need our support, as the discussion on these problems are not at all solved.

Lawrence Lessigs book «free culture» has been crowdsourced into Norwegian

«Free Culture» is a book by law professor Lawrence Lessig that he released under a Creative Commons license. Both the book and and his work with Creative Commons puts Lawrence Lessig in a group of visionary thinker that early on understood how important it would be to have a free license also for content and how law and regulation on copyright has been moving in the wrong direction.

In november 2015 the «free culture» book was launched in Norwegian, and the cool thing about this projects is that it has been a crowdsourcing effort lead by my friend Petter Reinholdtsen. The book is now printed in a professional format and Petter has given one copy to every parlament member in Norway.

I have known Petter for a longe time as a free software activist and I know him as one of the most dedicated believers of free culture and the free and open internet in Norway. As many of the smart and skilled programmers in the free software movement he is also very focused one the implications that technology has on our every day lives. His work on this project shows ones again how dedicated Petter is to this cause.

So what is the book about?

The book documents how copyright power has expanded substantially sins the 70´s and even though the original book was released in March 2004 it is still relevant as the problem with our copyright laws being a relic from the «Gutenberg paradigme» still is not solved.

The inspiration for the title and for much of the argument of this book comes from the work of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, and Lessig himself writes that one could argue that the book is «merely a derivative».

If you have not read the book you can find it in a PDF version her.

For more info on the project itself goto Petters blogg.

Crowdsourcing and OER to help solve the educational crises among refugees in Europe

Many of the refugees that are entering Europa right now are stranded in a situation without any access to  normal education. This is a large problem that is getting more urgent every day. The high number of new people will make it impossible to solve this educational crisis by thinking «teacher and students in a classroom» as would be the normal way of solving this in the old «Gutenberg paradigm». In this situation there are noe available teacher, there are no available learning resources and no way of closing the gap without using new methods.

I attended a conference in Berlin this week and one of the speakers at the conference talked about how it would be impossible for Germany to meet the needs of the large number of refugees in terms of education. He talked about how the government in Germany have made predictions that they need another 25.000 teachers to meet the increase in refugees and this is of course a demand that is impossible to meet.

Germany needs another 25.000 teachers to meet the increasing number of refugees

The Norwegian government and several international partners are launching an innovation competition to develop a mobile-based learning application for Syrian children. This is a great initiative but in general the problem for European public sector is that they are not built to move fast and during the first part of this crises right now they are all just working to meet the basic needs like housing and food.

At the same time we have thousands of highly skilled teachers that if given the opportunity would be a tremendous resource for these refugees. Highly educated refugees from countries like Syria are also an untapped resource that should be able to play a role in bridging this gap.

I have no quick fix to end this crises but I have som thoughts on where to start. I truly belive that a strong community of teacher across Europe working to crowdsource learning resources would make a big difference in this situation. Every singel teacher would not have to put up many ours with quality time to make this into a movement that really could make a contribution.

To organize this we would have to focus on:

  • local communities with bout teachers and refugees
  • develop learning resources that is made for learning without a teacher
  • global learning resources in a locally setting
  • reuse an re-contextualization
  • reuse across European countries
  • Work in booksprints and hackathons instead of setting op large projects

We have to make a community of communities, not another EU-funded project moving at glacial speed

I am thinking that this should NOT be ONE project with ONE plattform trying to gather all the good stuff in one place but rather a community of communities with one common goal and that is to create simple and light weight learning resources to be used in an «out of school setting».

This is one of those times when it is better to do something than nothing, and I am simply saying that starting a movement based on crowdsourcing and open educational resources would be something.

How to chose the right open license for commercialization

Over the last two months I have been working with the Norwegian agency for development(Norad) on their project EduApp4Syria and advising them on open source licenses and license for content being developed as a part of the project.

In general choosing the right license for your software and content is not a difficult process, but my advice is to think it trough and start with your goals for reuse and sharing, and let this be the starting point.

Historically, the GPL license family has been one of the most popular open source(Free software) licenses and I am myself a copy-left advocate. The GPL license is defined a Copyleft license.Copyleft is a copyright licensing scheme in which an author surrenders some, but not all rights under copyright law.

Under copyleft, derived works may be produced provided they are released under the compatible copyleft scheme. This means that in most cases the derived product can not be incorporated into proprietary products.

In this project Norad wanted to impose minimal restrictions in terms of commercialization of new products derived from the project. As many other large development organizations Norad have a strong focus on getting as much out of every invested dollar and going in to the project we look at The Principles for Digital Development where open standards and open source is set as one of the 9 principles.

An important aspect is to enable others to reuse both digital content and technology developed as part of the project, subsequently supporting self-enhancing diversity of production models and interactive communities. My advice in this case was to go for a permissive free software licenses.

So in this case, my advice is:

Both licenses allow others to reuse, change and distribute, even commercially.

This means that it is possible for anyone reusing the technology or content from this project to commercialize their product. BSD Licenses allows proprietary use and allows the software released under the license to be incorporated into proprietary products. However, we are receptive to feedback on these issues and the guidelines are intended only to apply to those who receive economic incentives.

The project is actually letting the marked compete in several iterations starting with a self made prototype. This lead us to the question on when the required should take effect. Our conclusion was that the open source license and Creative Commons will not be required for self financed prototyping and proof of concept development, lowering the bar for companies to use their mockups as input to the project.


The simple magic of reuse, sharing and collaboration

Two weeks ago I posted a blogg with a timeline of OER. After reading this, my friends in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia picked up the timeline and translated it into Amharic. This involved a different language, different plattform and context. The common thread is H5P, a tool I have blogged about many times before, that allows anyone to create, share and reuse interactive HTML5 content in their browser.


The important thing to notice here is that the team in Addis could reuse all the effort that I put in the timeline and at the same time just by translating it the timeline was available in a new language, something that would be impossible for me to do simply because I don´t know Amharic.

There is a growing edTech and OER community in Addis and this last weekend they organized a workshop where they also made their own timeline describing important events in Ethiopian history(see it at the end of the bloggpost). As a part of the same workshop they made an interactive test where you can test your skills on the most common Amharic words.


This put me up to the idea that I could make a new resource based on what they have made, and in fact make an OER in Amharic, a languages that I do not master. How? I made all the «cards» in the object below based on text from the team in Addis. Our common ground is that we all understand English.


When advocating for Open education resources, open source and open standards the message sometimes is lost in the complexity of all the technical issues. I myself have on more then one occasion struggled to explained the «magic of OER». In this case working with a small usecase like this just seams like a great way to demonstrate the magic of open educational resources.a

Check out this timeline on Ethiopian history:

Copyright and OER in the same debate is not a good mix

Yesterday I attended a «policy breakfast» on OER at the EU parlament in Brussels. The event was be held in the European Parlament, with introductory speeches from OECD experts and with the presence of EP members.

The event focused on the European level of policymaking, with the goal of discussing possibilities of strengthening European policies and programs that support open education. These kinds of events provide an excellent opportunity to compare experiences and discuss recommendations about policies, and at the same time try to influence parlament members. The event is part of the important work of the Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt:Polska, their mission is to work towards social change and enhancing citizens’ participation through the use of digital technologies and open, cooperative models based on sharing knowledge and other resources.

When trying to bring the issues on Open education to the attention of policymakers it is hard to keep the message simple as there is a rather complex forrest of different problems and issues to be solved.

Copyright and OER in the same debate

The «policy breakfast» tried to combine two discussions, the first is on OER and the second one is copyright reform. These to issues are closely linked as they both affect what kind of content the teacher can use in the classroom and to me this seemed like a good idea when I read it in the invitation. After the meeting my conclusion is that it might have been a bit confusing for those not well wandered in this mace of legal matters and open licenses. While copyright is all about harmonizing the laws across european countries and all the legal and technical issues that comes with it, on the the discussion around Copyright the «devil is most definitely in the details».

The discussion around OER on the other hand is is much more focused on how to promote a policy that increases the development of freely licensed content and all the benefits that comes with sharing and reusing digital learning resources. For those focused on solving issues of copyright and faire use in different European countries the OER movement is only part of the solution.

My advice is to avoid mixing these to issues like we did yesterday. It would have been hard nought to get EU parlament members in the room to understand one of these issues over the course of 90 minutes. So I think it is a lesson to be learned for us OER advocates.

Creative Commons License
This work by Christer Gundersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Timeline – the history of open educational resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. For anyone that wants to understand why Open educational resources in so many ways are changing global education today, I think it is crucial to understand the history of OER.

During the last weeks I have been setting up a list of projects that I feel has had an impact on this open educational movement, and at one point I decided to make a timeline.  As many of you might be aware of the OER movement was inspired by the free software movement and open source. I have chosen to start my timeline in 1985 when Richard Stallman founded the Free Software Foundation.

Although OER is the leading trend in distance education as a consequence of the openness movement, many OERs are not truly open. When listing these OER projects I have been very liberal in terms of witch projects to include. So this is by no means a list of OERs but rather a list of projects that have influenced the development of OERs.

Do you know about any projects that should be in the timeline? All feedback is appreciate!