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Open Educational Resources (OER) at Wright

Copyright and OER

How do Copyright, OER, and Creative Commons work together?

Open educational resources, like all intellectual property, are subject to the laws of copyright. OER creators choose to share their work than reserve all of their rights for themselves, and Creative Commons has created tools that allow them 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 retain, reuse, redistribute, revise, and remix their work.

Resources from the public domain (works for which copyright has expired), fair use (such as using small parts of works for educational purposes), or library resources (when you are able to direct your students to use a library resource instead of having them buy it) may also be used as an alternative to proprietary materials.

Creative Commons Licenses

CC-BY Attribution

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.

CC-BY-SA Attribution Share-Alike

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

CC-BY-NC Attribution Non-Commercial

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

CC-BY-ND Attribution No-Derivatives

This license lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.

CC-BY-NC-SA Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

CC-BY-NC-ND Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Fair Use

What about fair use? Can't anything be used for educational purposes under fair use doctrine?

Fair use is often claimed in education but less often understood. There are four factors to consider when determining if use of a work can be considered fair use under the law. Take a look at the four factors in the table below and check out the fair use evaluator tool (link) for more help with fair use.


What is the purpose and character of the use being considered?


What is the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole?


What is the nature of the copyrighted work?


What is the effect of the use on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work?


Public Domain

What are public domain resources, and how are they different from other OER?

Unlike openly licensed materials, public domain materials have no legal copyright owner and no restrictions on their use (though of course, there is an ethical, academic obligation to cite your sources). Public domain materials may be right for your course if you are looking for materials created before 1927 such as art, literature, or other historical materials that may help provide context for more current work in your discipline.

Works in the public domain include:

  • All works published in the United States before 1927 (as of 2022)
  • Works by an creator who has died more than 70 years ago
  • Some works created between 1924-1964 that were not copyright renewed - U.S. Copyright Office research is required to determine this
  • Works dedicated to the public domain (this is different than creative commons licensing!)
  • United States government works

For more details on when copyrighted works may enter the public domain, see the chart at the link below.

Library Resources

Are library resources considered open educational resources?

While not technically open, library resources are licensed for use by currently enrolled students at no cost. This means that using library resources could augment OER in making courses free of text book costs. Usually, there is no problem directing your students to a library resource via a link or specific search instructions, but some resources do have limits on the number of people accessing them simultaneously. For help finding or linking library resources, or for questions about licensing of specific resources, please contact a librarian.

Linking to library resources is always permitted.

Linking to library resources from your Blackboard or other course site is a good option that does not violate copyright laws or our institutions agreements with vendors. Here are some tips for linking to library resources so that your students are directed to the right place, whether they're accessing the resource on or off campus.

  • Share a stable link - for many databases, you can simply look for a "share this" or "permalink" or "persistent link"  and copy and paste this for your students to use.
  • Get your students to practice library searching! Provide them with the citation for the item you would like to use and have them find it in the library on their own. You could assist by directing them to specific databases or providing them with search terms.
  • Some library databases have open access content that can be retained and shared without restriction. Check with a librarian if you have questions.

Additional Copyright Resources