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Open Licensing: Getting Started

Getting Started


Open licensing is the foundation upon which open educational resources are created. Using open licensing, frequently a Creative Commons (CC) license, the author of an open educational resource maintains copyright of their work while allowing others to freely use the content as long as the terms of the license are met. This gives others the right to share, use, and build upon the original scholarship.

Open Licensing Overview

Open Licensing Overview

Open licenses provide a bridge between PUBLIC DOMAIN and TRADITIONAL COPYRIGHT. With public domain, no intellectual property rights are reserved by the content creator and content users are under no limitations on how they can use content. With TRADITIONAL COPYRIGHT, all rights are reserved and permissions must be obtained for each use which is covered by the copyright.


With OPEN LICENSING, such as Creative Commons, the content creator continues to own the copyright of the content. By applying an open license to the content, they give permissions in advance to anyone using the content allowing certain uses without the need to seek permissions with each use.

Six Standard Creative Commons Licenses

Using the ND (no derivatives) means that your content is not considered 'open' since this element prevents the revising and remixing of the content.

Open Licencing and 5 Rs


Creative Commons Licensing and the 5Rs

David Wiley, an open educational content advocate and Chief Academic Officer of Lumen Learning, has captured the 'openness' provided to content creators allowed under open licensing using what he refers to as "the 5 Rs of open educational resources." These give any faculty the freedom to:

  • Retain -
    the right to make, own, and control copies of the content;

  • Reuse - 
    the right to use the contenn a wide range of ways;

  • Revise -
    the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself;

  • Remix -
    right to combine original or revised content with other open content to create something new; and

  • Redistribute - 
    the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

This concept of openness gives faculty increased flexibility to create teaching resources customized to their classroom and instruction needs.

Elements of A Creative Commons License

As a creator of OER, you can choose the conditions of reuse and modification by selecting one or more of the elements listed below:

Attribution (BY) icon

Attribution (BY)

Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.

Non-commercial (NC) icon

Non-commercial (NC)

Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform your work - and derivative works based upon it - but for non-commercial purposes only.

Share Alike (SA) icon

Share Alike (SA)

Others are allowed to distribute your work (and derivatives) only under a license identical to the license that governs your work

No Derivative Works (ND) icon

No Derivative Works (ND)

Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Some things to remember when applying CC license...

  • All creative commons licenses include BY (attribution)

  • The SA (share alike) and ND (no derivatives) are not used together

  • Creative Commons licenses are Irrevocability.