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Open Educational Resources (OER)

This guide provides information about Open Education Resources (OER) including where to find them, how to use them, and how to create them.

OER and Copyright

Copyright law is confusing and frustrating. Traditional textbooks are usually issued and distributed through corporate publishing houses. The authors of those textbooks may or may not retain the rights to the material they wrote. Using material still under copyright, while allowed for educational purposes, can be fraught with legal ramifications.

OER materials are all issued under an open license. That means they can be used and adapted freely with minimal permissions. The information on this page, while not exhaustive, seeks to make OER permissions and licensing a little bit clearer.

Creative Commons

Most OER is issued under an open license through Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that helps creators license and distribute their work. Licenses are designed to let others know how the work may be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon. The licenses work within the confines of copyright law.

You can learn more about Creative Commons licenses and use the license selector below.

Types of Creative Commons Licenses

Chart of Creative Commons Licenses

Fair Use and Public Domain

Since there are gaps in OER, you may wish to fill in with commercial or traditionally published information. Luckily, under copyright law, educational purposes often fall under Fair Use. Some material may even be in the public domain making it free from copyright.

Fair use allows you to use copyrighted works without permission for a limited and transformative purpose, such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, or parody. Fair use exception to copyright is not as defined as other exceptions, such as classroom or library uses. 

Fair use asks you to consider four factors:

  • Purpose and character of use
  • Nature of the copyrighted work
  • Amount or substantiality of use
  • Effect on the market for the work

The video below explains Fair Use and public domain.

Copyright and Licensing Courses

The resources below are courses or self-paced tutorials available to help you learn more about Creative Commons, copyright, licensing, and attribution.

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