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Open Educational Resources (OER)

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a bunch of rights in specific creative material such as text, artistic works, music, computer programs, sound recordings and films. The copyright owner can control how their material is used. Copyright owners can prevent others from copying or communicating their material without their permission. For further details, see: About Copyright.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a licence that is applied to a work protected by Copyright. It's a way of easily sharing copyrighted work without giving up total control or spending countless hours granting permissions.

  • Users only need to seek the creator's permission to use the work in a way not permitted by the licence.
  • CC Licences allow works to be used for educational purposes. As a result, instructors and students can freely copy, share, and sometimes modify and remix a CC work without seeking the creator's permission.
Attribution: Definitions are a derivative of "What is Copyright?" and "What is Creative Commons?" by Smartcopying licensed under CC BY 4.0.

About Copyright

Copyright matters, because as instructors we often use content created by others, and create content for others to use.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of legal protection that affords the copyright owner the exclusive rights to, among other things:

  1. Reproduce (copy)
  2. Distribute
  3. Publicly perform
  4. Publicly display
  5. Create “derivative works” (e.g., translations, revisions, other modifications)

Without permission from the copyright owner, or an applicable exception such as fair dealing under the Copyright Act, it is a violation of copyright law to exercise any of the copyright owner's exclusive rights.

For additional information on copyright, contact the University Copyright Officer.

What is a Copyright Licence?

A copyright licence is a grant of permission to use certain copyright rights. Copyright licences often have specific limitations that are outlined. For example, they may:

  • Be limited in time
  • Contain geographical restrictions
  • Only allow for educational uses
  • Only grant permission to use some of the copyright rights (for example, a licence may grant permission to download and distribute a work, but not the right to create derivative works).

When evaluating the permitted scope of uses, read all copyright language closely. Using a work in a manner that exceeds the scope of permissions granted in a licence is copyright infringement.

National and Local Copyright Policy

Under Section 35 of the Copyright Act 1968, the author of the work is generally the owner of the copyright. However, if a work is created within the scope of the author’s employment, the employer holds the copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

Check the University's Copyright Policy and Intellectual Property Policy. Collective agreements or employment contracts can also affect copyright ownership. Contact your Institution's library if you need more information, since they may be able to direct you to relevant policies and contacts.

Copyright Exceptions and Limitations

Public Domain

Works in the Public Domain are released from copyright protection, due to expiration of their copyright or by designation by the copyright holder. This content may be used in any way by anyone. In Australia, with some exceptions, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the creator.

Fair Dealing

Section 40 of the The Copyright Act 1968 addresses education use: fair dealing for the purpose of research or study.

Linking to Copyrighted Materials

It is not a violation of copyright to link to copyrighted material, nor is it necessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder to, for example, link to a YouTube video in a presentation.

Follow this simplified checklist to determine the user permissions of the resources that you find online:

  • Look carefully at the resource you want to use and any information surrounding it to identify licensing information.
  • Also, review the "about" and "terms of use" pages of the resource's website for permissions and licensing information.
  • If you cannot find a symbol or statement of the licence or the permissions for use, the copyright owner probably retains all of their exclusive rights.

Use the guidelines below to identify whether you need to seek permission from the copyright holder when repurposing existing materials as OER. You may also contact your institutional Library for help on determining whether your intended use falls within a copyright exception or licence or whether permission is required.

  • You DO NOT need to ask permission if:
    • The resource is in the public domain. However, note that if resources reside in the public domain, they may contain copyrighted works within them, so examine the resource and read the terms of use carefully.
    • Your intended use falls within a copyright exception or limitation (such as fair dealing).
    • The way you want to use the resource complies with the terms of a copyright licence that applies to you (i.e., you already have permission in this case).
  • You DO need to ask permission if:
    • You wish to use a resource protected by copyright, and your intended use would be infringing copyright law.
    • You wish to use a resource in a way that is beyond the scope of the permission granted to users in an applicable copyright licence.
  • You should consider asking for permission if:
    • You are uncertain about whether an applicable copyright licence permits your intended use.
    • You are uncertain about whether a work is protected by copyright.
    • You are uncertain whether your intended use falls within a copyright exception or limitation (such as fair dealing).
Attribution: Text is a derivative of Permissions Guide for Educators by ISKME licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Licensing and Open Textbooks

Before you start, ask yourself these questions (Word download):

  • What is my purpose for creating an Open Textbook?
  • Who owns the copyright of my Open Textbook?
  • How do I attribute original content created by me as part of my job or in another place?
  • Can I use CC-licensed content as is, without attribution?
  • What's the best way to attribute my original content and CC-licensed material?
  • How should I attribute content where I've used a mix of creative works with various CC-licensed material?
  • I've created the Open Textbook. Should I do anything before I share it?

Download this free Record of Permissions (Excel download) template to help you keep track of third party licensing permissions.

5Rs for Using OER

When you are using OER, you have the flexibility to:
1 reuse content in its unaltered/verbatim original format
2 retain copies of content for personal archives or reference
3 revise content to suit specific needs
4 remix content with other similar content to create something new
5 redistribute or share content with anyone else in its original or altered format

These five rights, or permissions, of using OER are made possible through open licensing.

For example, a Creative Commons open licence helps you retain copyright while allowing others to reproduce, distribute, and make some use of your work.

Open Licensing

What are Open Licences?

Open licences support creators that want to share their works freely, and allow other users more flexibility to reuse and share the creators’ works. Specific benefits include:

  • Allowing others to distribute the work freely, which in turn promotes wider circulation than if an individual or group retained the exclusive right to distribute;
  • Reducing or eliminating the need for others to ask for permission to use or share the work, which can be time consuming, especially if the work has many authors;
  • Encouraging others to continuously improve and add value to the work; and
  • Encouraging others to create new works based on the original work - e.g. translations, adaptations, or works with a different scope or focus.

Open Textbooks are typically licensed under an open licensing system, with the most popular being the Creative Commons (CC) licensing system.

Attribution: Text is a derivative of Guide to Open Licensing by Open Knowledge International licensed under CC BY 4.0.
Creative Commons Licences

Creative Commons licences allow you to retain certain rights while waiving some rights. There are six types of Creative Commons licence. All require attribution to the original creator(s). You can add on other restrictions such as non-commercial uses only and no derivative works. The six licences include:

  • CC0 - In general, you may treat the resource as if it were in the public domain.
  • CC BY - Attribution to the author/creator required.
  • CC BY-SA - Attribution required, and you agree to licence new derivative versions of the resource that you create under CC BY-SA as well.
  • CC BY-NC - Attribution required; non-commercial use only; commercial use requires a separate, negotiated licence.
  • CC BY-ND - Attribution required; no derivative works permitted; creation of derivative works requires a separate, negotiated licence.
  • CC BY-NC-ND - This licence is the most restrictive of our six main licences. It allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Watch the video or read the Creative Commons Kiwi video transcript (RTF download). This short video explains the six Creative Commons Licences, by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand.

Attribution: "Creative Commons Kiwi" by Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
As a creator of OER, you can choose the conditions of reuse and modification by selecting one or more of the restrictions listed below:
Attribution (BY) icon

Attribution (BY)

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — only if they give credit the way you request.

Non-commercial (NC) icon

Non-commercial (NC)

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only.

Share Alike (SA) icon

Share Alike (SA)

You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the licence that governs your work.

No Derivative Works (ND) icon

No Derivative Works (ND)

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Attribution: Text is a derivative of definitions provided in A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources by Commonwealth of Learning licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Which Licence? A Use Case

In this animated video, Michelle develops a chapter on metabolism for an open textbook. She uses her teaching notes for the text of the chapter and finds openly licensed images and exercises to accompany the text. She also determines which Creative Commons licence to assign to her finished chapter before sharing it.

Watch the video or read the Creating OER and Combining Licenses video transcript (RTF download) and review this page about CC Adapter licences and how to remix CC Licences.

How can I reference CC licensed work?

Referencing is important. By citing a work/image/video correctly, you acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of the author/creator/researcher. How you attribute authors of the CC works will depend on how the content is used or adapted, including whether you modify the content, create a derivative, and/or use multiple sources.

For more information about Creative Commons, please review these FAQ.

IMPORTANT: Works provided under a CC licence,

  • require attribution anda link back to the source and CC licence when used, so the person using the work can read the terms of use.
  • It can be used as long as you follow the license conditions. Here is an example of an ideal attribution of a CC-licensed image by Flickr user Lukas Schlagenhauf:

"Furggelen afterglow" by Lukas Schlagenhauf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

This is an ideal attribution because it includes the following:

Attribution: "Furggelen afterglow" by Lukas Schlagenhauf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
How do I create an attribution statement?

Use the Creative Commons Chooser (beta) tool to create your attribution. It helps you comply with the attribution requirement of a Creative Commons licence.

Make sure to document third-party copyright content permissions (Excel download).

Your School Librarian can provide support on issues related to licensing and copyright. For copyright and licensing advice, please get in touch with the University Copyright Officer.

CC License Overview Matrix

Visit the Wiki Creative Commons site for best practices for attribution.

© Western Sydney University, unless otherwise attributed.
Library guide created by Western Sydney University Library staff is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY)