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Open Educational Resources (OER)

OER, Copyright, and Fair Use

Open educational resources, like all intellectual property, are subject to copyright laws.  But some creators would rather share their work than reserve all of their rights for themselves. Creative Commons has created tools that allow creators of copyrightable work the ability to do this within the framework of copyright laws as they exist now. Creative Commons licenses are real, legal licenses that help creators retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work.

OER may also be used from the public domain (works for which copyright has expired) or fair use (such as using small parts of works for educational purposes).

Creative Commons


Creative Commons (CC) licensing is at the heart of the OER movement. Creative Commons licenses give everyone from individual creators to large institutions a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law. From the user’s perspective, the presence of a Creative Commons license on a copyrighted work answers the question, “What can I do with this work?” 
 

Creative Commons License Options

There are six different license types, listed from most to least permissive here:
 

 

 

CC BYThis license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.

CC BY includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator


 

CC BY-SA: This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.

CC BY-SA includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
SA  – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms


 

CC BY-NC: This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. 

It includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
NC  – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted


 

CC BY-NC-SA: This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms. 

CC BY-NC-SA includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
NC  – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
SA  – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms


 

CC BY-ND: This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. 

CC BY-ND includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
ND  – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted


 

CC BY-NC-ND: This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. 

CC BY-NC-ND includes the following elements:
BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
NC  – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
ND  – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted


Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication:


 

CC0 (aka CC Zero) is a public dedication tool, which allows creators to give up their copyright and put their works into the worldwide public domain. CC0 allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions.

Writing attributions

When using openly licensed materials, attributions are a must in order to give credit to the creator. An attribution differs from a citation in that it credits a copyright holder according to the terms of a copyright license - strictly in the legal sense - without the academic purpose of a citation.

It is best practice to add an attribution  directly at the point where you are using the licensed content, almost like a caption.

Fair Use

In general, Copyright Law prohibits reproducing and distributing copyrighted works. However, the "Fair Use Doctrine" (Section 107) allows a limited amount of copying for purposes such as teaching and scholarship. In determining whether the use made of a work in a particular case is a Fair Use, the factors to be considered include:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use raises almost as many questions as it answers, and is subjective and open to interpretation on a case-by-case basis.  The most important point to remember is that Fair Use is both a right and a privilege, and does provide a substantial degree of freedom and protection for teachers. The following list outlines what may be considered fair use for educational purposes.

  • Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less, of a copyrighted text work. For example, you may use an entire poem of less than 250 words but no more than three poems by one poet or five poems by different poets from the same anthology.
     
  • Up to 10%, but not more than 30 seconds, of the music and lyrics from an individual musical work.
     
  • Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less, of a copyrighted motion media work—for example, an animation, video, or film image.
     
  • A photograph or illustration in its entirety but no more than five images by the same artist or photographer. When using photographs and illustrations from a published collective work, you may use no more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less. 
     
  • Up to 10% or 2,500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less, from a copyrighted database or data table. A “field entry” is defined as a specific item of information, such as a name or Social Security number in a database file record. A “cell entry” is defined as the intersection at which a row and a column meet on a spreadsheet