Open Educational Resources Community of Learning

Module 4: Licensing: Which Creative Commons Licenses are OER


CC BY and CC BY SA are considered truly "open" licenses because they allow for all of the 5 Rs. CC BY, CC BY SA, and the public domain marks are all compatible with each other and are suitable for OER.


CC BY ND - you can use as an unmodified insert

Only the CC licenses that allow for remixing are suitable for OER. CC ND licenses don't allow for modifications which can be shared, so they don't fit the definition of OER. They can be used within your CC BY or CC BY SA work, as long as you don't change them - in other words, if they are just inserts.

CC ND licenses may still be suitable for marking your work - many law textbooks contain CC ND licenses because the authors are concerned that the work remains accurate and the content is not taken out of context.


CC BY NC - avoid using unless you can rely on fair use

If you plan on marking your OER course CC BY or CC BY SA, avoid using any NC licenses because they won't be compatible.

"Wait, that doesn't make sense," you might be thinking. "NC means non-commercial. Why can't I use something marked non-commercial in my OER? I don't intend to use my OER commercially. OERs are meant to be shared. They aren't commercial."

True, the creator who marks their work NC intended to share their work openly. They don't want it to be put to commercial use though. Contrary to our perceptions of OER, open licenses do allow for commercial use. That means that if you are going to mark your work CC BY or CC BY SA, you should avoid using NC licensed work within it. While your use may not be commercial, a downstream user of your work may have a commercial use - they would have to replace the NC works you included.


Unmodified CC BY ND and CC BY SA

If you use a work without modification, then you can use material with any license (besides NC) in your OER (licensed CC BY or CC BY SA). For example, you can copy an ND or SA image for illustration into your CC BY work.

If you are planning to license your OER CC BY or CC BY SA, and you want to include adaptations or remixes, remember that you can only remix or adapt CC BY or CC BY SA  (or public domain) licensed works. An example of an adaptation would be a translation into another language or turning a story into a dramatic video. An example of a remix would be incorporating music into video or adding yourself to a photograph.

For remixes always remember that you may be able to rely on fair use even if the licenses are incompatible.


Lastly, you should make sure you can abide by all of the terms of all of the licenses. This means you need to make sure you are attributing the work correctly.