On this OER licenses page, explore: What a "license" and "open license" are; types of Creative Commons (CC) licenses and acronyms; types of public domain licenses; and differences between CC licenses, public domain, and traditional copyright.
What's an open license?
What is a license?
In an academic context, a license is permission you get from the copyright owner of the work you want to use. A license basically grants permissions, but sometimes it states restrictions as well. It specifies what can and cannot be done with a work.
Copyright = (a form of) intellectual ownership
License = permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work
Licensing = obtaining permission or consent from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted work
What is an open license?
An OPEN license is a type of license that grants permission to access, re-use and redistribute a work for free, with few or no restrictions. With open licenses, creators still maintain the rights to their copyrighted work -- they are not "giving" away their work or their copyright.
Bottom line? Think of an "open license" as "free + permissions."
If you see an open license, that's how you know it's OER! See below for common types of open licenses.
"Creative Commons" licenses are referred to as "CC" licenses, and they are examples of open licenses. So if someone creates OER and wants to share it with others, then they put CC licenses on their work to make it clear that they are sharing their work.
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.
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.
Creative Commons - Attribution - No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you. This means no edits or changes to the original work.
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.
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.
Creative Common - Attribution - Non-Commercial - No Derivatives
This license is the most restrictive of the 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.
Use the Creative Commons License Chooser to add the CC license notice to your work or website.
What is public domain?
A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright, which means it’s free for you to use without permission.
Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.
There is an additional CC license, called the "CC 0" (CC Zero) license that releases modern works into the public domain with a Creative Commons license.
Types of public domain licenses:
Creative Commons Zero (CC0)
Otherwise known as "No Rights Reserved"
This type of public domain is when creator(s) has waived their rights to the works and gifted their work to the world. Use this universal tool if you are a holder of copyright or database rights, and you wish to waive all your interests that may exist in your work worldwide.
Otherwise known as "No Known Copyright"
This enables works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others. Many cultural heritage institutions including museums, libraries and other curators are knowledgeable about the copyright status of paintings, books and manuscripts, photographs and other works in their collections, many of which are old and no longer under copyright.
Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Tacoma Community College Library is licensed under CC BY SA 4.0.
This openly licensed content allows others to cite, share, or modify this content, with credit to TCC Library. When reusing or adapting this content, include this statement in the new document: This content was originally created by Tacoma Community College Library and shared with a CC BY SA 4.0 license.
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