Rowena McKernan

Chapter Objectives

Differentiate between current U.S. default copyright laws and voluntary open licensing options


Copyright Basics Overview

What is copyright?  This Wikipedia article covers the basics and provides a comprehensive overview.  After reading the Copyright article from Wikipedia, view these videos on the history & meaning of copyright:




Open Licenses – What do they do?

Because of the automatic nature and severe limitations for sharing in traditional U.S. Copyright, various legal and voluntary licensing mechanisms were developed to enable content creators to share their work more easily.  There are many different types of open licenses, but first let’s look at what it means to be “Open” and why this is an important tool for educators.

Why Openness in Education?

Read  “Why Openness in Education” by two leaders in the Openness community – David Wiley and Cable Green. Note that since the publication of the article David Wiley has expanded his “4 Rs” to “5 Rs”.

The 5Rs of Openness

Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content

Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)

Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)

Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)

Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)


Watch “OER & Libraries: How can you help?” (starting at 17:14) of Cyril Oberlander of Humboldt State University speaking about “OER & Libraries: How can you help?”


Additional Advantages to Using Open Licenses [1]

  1. International legal compatibility:   Increases legal interoperability of open resources, specially in a regional and global scale where there is little copyright law.  This common permissions framework maximizes outreach, improves increased return on the investment, and can extend institutional trust in reuse.
  2. Technical interoperability:  machine-readable markup of licenses helps to discover and retrieve open-licensed resources.
  3. Understandability:  understanding rights of use through licenses is much easier and explicit than through exceptions.

Working with Creative Commons

Let’s take a closer look at one of the most popular open licensing mechanism used in OER, Creative Commons and then complete the related assignment.

Definition (What are CC licenses): “The Creative Commons copyright licenses and tools forge a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates. Our tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. The combination of our tools and our users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.”

From Creative Commons About the Licenses



Look at examples of organizations and companies using Creative Commons Licenses (http://creativecommons.org/examples).  In the discussion forum tell us why you think a particular organization choose a particular variant of the Creative Commons and why that organization would choose an open license at all (rather than rely on the automatic copyright protections granted to them by the U.S. Government)?


Further Readings:


Module In a Nutshell

  • Copyright is automatic
  • Copyright lasts almost forever and comes with limited exemptions such as Fair Use.
  • Open licenses are tools for rightsholder to modify standard copyright.

  1. adapted from email from Werner Westermann https://groups.google.com/a/arl.org/forum/#!topic/sparc-liboer/iPtj6zDWWkU


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Librarians as Open Education Advocates by Rowena McKernan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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