Open Educational Resources Community of Learning

Module 4: Licensing: Copyright and OER Basics

  • When is copyright protected?
    • From the time the work is fixed in a tangible medium. Copyright protection can last for a very long time - over a hundred years from the time it's created.


  • Can we use anything we find on the Internet?
    • To be able to place an open license on our OER, we can only use material that fits one of these four conditions:
      • We create it ourselves (but if you work for someone else, they may own the copyright! Check with your employer to make sure. For example, Texas State University permits employees to openly license coursework they create for the university, even if the university owns it.)
      • The creator marked it with an open license.
      • It is uncopyrightable (short phrases or facts, for example) or in the public domain (the copyright has ended, for example).
      • It is a fair use insert (more on this in the next section).


  • Why are open licenses important in OER?
    • We want our OER to fit the 5Rs so that it is easy for others to use it. If it contains work that is protected by copyright and that doesn't qualify for fair use, it would be able to be reused without permission.


  • What's in the public domain?
    • Public domain does not mean everything that is publicly available. Just because something has been used many times on the Internet doesn't mean you won't be infringing by using it yourself. Just because something doesn't have a copyright notice on it doesn't mean it is not protected by copyright.
    • Public domain differs by jurisdiction  - anything published in the US before 1926 and anything created by the United States federal government will be in the public domain, but for anything else, you will need to check whether it is still in copyright.


  • Why can't we use library resources in our OER?
    • Library resources are only available to you under a restricted license. Even though you can use it here, a subsequent user would have to purchase a license for the material. You may be able to rely on fair use, but you will need to make sure the license allows reliance on fair use - check with your librarian for the details.