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Open Educational Resources (OER): Copyright and OER

A collection of links and resources for faculty use when developing OER.

Creative Commons - What Is It?

When it comes to OER, you will most likely hear about them utilizing a Creative Commons License. And this is because a large portion of the types of Creative Commons Licenses, allows for the materials to be reused, redistributed, modified, and altered. A fundamental requirement for materials to be OER, is that they are openly licensed in a manner that allows for sharing, use, reuse, and altering.

Generally a work is protected by copyright, as soon as it is created. Which means there are restrictions or limitations on how the material can be used or shared. In many cases, if an item has copyright, copying the work or putting the work online without permission from the creator is illegal or not allowed. There is of course Fair Use, and the Classroom Use Exemptions, but both still place significant limitations on how work can be used in an educational setting.

With Creative Commons, a content creator can place a license on their work that grants users a set of conditions to promote the sharing, reuse, and modification of the material. However, not all Creative Commons Licenses are created equal.

Terms of a Creative Commons License

When you find a material that has a Creative Commons License, you will see an icon similar to the one below:

Example of a Creative Commons License

The "CC" part indicates that it is a Creative Commons License, while the other icons indicate the specific terms of the license.

CC License Terms
Symbol Meaning
Creative Commons Attribution (BY) License Symbol Attribution (BY) - You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
Creative Commons Non-Commercial (NC) License Symbol Non-Commercial (NC) - The material cannot be used for commercial purposes.
Creative Commons Share Alike (SA) License Symbol Share Alike (SA) - If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
Creative Commons No Derivative (ND) License Symbol No Derivative Works (ND) - If you remix, transform or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material. Note: works licensed with this type of license are not considered OER.

Possible Licenses

Using the various terms discussed above, there are six possible Creative Commons Licenses. In summary, any of the licenses that don't include the No Derivative Works (ND) terms,  are OER. While the two licenses that include No Derivative Works (ND) are not considered OER. The following graphic illustrates this concept:

Types of Creative Commons Licenses, marked based on whether they are OER or not

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