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OER: Open Educational Resources

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons licensing allows creators to specify more flexible forms of licensing than copyright allows.  It can allow for a wider variety of uses and modification.

A Word about Fair Use

OER is about using and sharing openly licensed works.  However, the topic of fair use often comes up in OER discussions because it the means by which teachers have frequently shared copyrighted information with their students.  It is hlepful to be familiar with copyright and fair use concerns, generally, when discussing OER.

In general, copyright law prohibits reproducing and distributing copyrighted works. However, the "Fair Use Doctrine" (Section 107) allows a limited amount of copying and certain kinds of distribution for purposes such as teaching. In determining whether a use is a fair use, the factors to be considered may include:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyright work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The Fair Use Doctrine and its interpretations raise many questions and can be a source of concern for teachers.  The most important point to remember is that Fair Use does provide a substantial degree of freedom for teaching. However, that freedom is often challenged, and in reality most educational institutions do not have the resources to engage in legal battles over this issue. 

The Fair Use Checklist (PDF) can be helpful in determining whether or not usage falls under fair use.

See the Copyright guide for more information.