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CC Licences and OER

Creative Commons (CC) Licences and Open Educational Resources (OER)

Understanding open licensing as it relates to copyright law is essential for those adopting, customizing, or creating OERs. 

Some Copyright Basics

In Canada and elsewhere, original works are protected by copyright law as soon as they are fixed in a medium until they enter the public domain. The rights holder of a copyright-protected work is generally the author unless they sign their copyright away, such as to a publisher.

No one can copy or make changes to copyright-protected works unless the rights holder explicitly grants permission OR unless user rights granted in the Canadian Copyright Act, such as fair dealing, apply. Users must either assess whether an exception sufficiently applies to their use case OR ask permission.

Open licences, including some Creative Commons licences, are a way for copyright owners to control and grant permission for how their works are shared while also enabling users to readily identify how and whether they can copy or change the work.

Creative Commons Licences

Creative Commons defines itself as “a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges.” CC licences are standard, easy-to-use and understand copyright licences that anybody can apply to their work to allow others to share, remix, or use their work without requiring the user to contact them (the copyright holder) to ask for permission. The licence already grants certain permissions. 

CC Licences are built upon a series of conditions:

Abbreviation Name Licence conditions
CC BY   Attribution Credit must be given to the creator
CC SA ShareAlike Adaptations must be shared under the same terms
CC NC NonCommercial Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
CC ND NoDerivatives No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted

Not technically a licence:

icon CC zero

CC0 is not technically a licence. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication enables copyright holders to place their work in the public domain.

icon public domain mark

Public Domain Mark is not a licence. It enables users to indicate where they know works to be free of copyright restriction and thereby in the public domain.

Six Creative Commons Licences are as follows:

Need Help Deciding Which Licence is Right For You:

Creative Commons provides further detail about each of their licences. See "About CC licenses."

Creative Commons also provides a Licence Chooser Tool.

Keep in mind that not all CC licences are suited to OER.

Some CC Licences are suited to OER. The ND Licences are not.

adapted infographic of Wiley's 5rs and CC licensing

Adaptation by Rachel Harris of “Wiley’s 5Rs and Creative Commons Licensing” by Krysta McNutt, CC-BY 4.0. To view the original, visit the Google Drawing.

You will need to know how to mark your work with a CC Licence

Creative Commons provides a quick and easy overview on "Marking your work with a CC license."

On including works by others in your OER project

Licence compatibility and appropriate attribution are the major considerations. Contact your Scholarly Publishing Librarian. 

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