Skip to main content

This Library Guide was created to help Brooklyn College faculty create Open Educational Resources (OER) for Brooklyn College students and beyond

Faculty Guide on Open Education Resources (OER): OER Copyright & Fair Use [New]

Learn to create OER

What is Creative Commons?

Most OER are released under Creative Commons (CC) licenses, which explicitly allow for uses beyond those typically allowed under copyright law.

In essence, CC flips the traditional copyright model, in which all rights are reserved except those expressly granted. Instead, under CC all rights are granted except those expressly reserved.

CC materials do not reside in the public domain; the creator still retains legal ownership of the work. However, unlike traditionally copyrighted materials, all CC materials may legally be redistributed to anyone, at any time, indefinitely.

In addition, most CC materials can be revised and remixed before being redistributed. The exact permissions allowed for a particular work depend upon what CC license is applied to it.

What about Fair Use?

Contrary to popular belief, fair use is not a law. Rather, it is a judicial doctrine that guides courts in how to apply copyright law. As a result, fair use allowances for educational use are much narrower than commonly believed.

To quote the open access journal PLOS: "Don't assume that you can use any content you find on the Internet, or that the content is fair game just because it isn't clear who the owner is or what license applies."

This document is a code of best practices designed to help those preparing OER to interpret and apply fair use under United States copyright law.

How to determine if something is an OER?

Many materials are available free of cost online. However, being free of cost does not necessarily mean something is an OER. For something to be considered an OER it needs to be freely and legally allowed to be redistributed and shared.

An easy way to evaluate if something is an OER is to determine the copyright status of an item. Is it in the public domain, does it have a creative commons (cc) license or does it have a free software license (e.g., GNU license, MIT license)? If the material does not fall into one of these categories, it probably is not an OER.

Note: Qualification as an OER is not based on technical ability (e.g., editing a document), but rather on legal ability and permission to use, re-use and remix.

Fair Use in the Context of COVID-19

We are in a time of crisis. As colleges move to remote teaching and research in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, library copyright specialists have released a Statement on Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research external link.. This page provides key points from that statement and an ASERL webinar.external link.

When moving to a remote teaching environment, remember that it's always easiest to link! The library provides access to many electronic resources and a number of vendors are providing free access to paywalled resources external link. in response to the pandemic. For additional guidance about these resources and how to link to them, please see the section on CUNY library resources.external link.

If a licensed version of a work is not available, faculty may conduct a fair use analysis to determine the suitability of making a copy. Making copies of new materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues, but they're not different from those involved in deciding whether to share something online with your students when you are meeting in-person. It's better not to make copies of entire works - but most instructors don't do that! Copying portions of works to share with students will often be fair use external link. and at times (especially in unusual circumstances, or with works that aren't otherwise commercially available) it may even be fair use to make lengthier copies. How much is needed for the pedagogical purpose? Let this be your guide. Just be sure to limit access to enrolled students for the period of the course.

Where an instructor doesn't feel comfortable relying on fair use, a subject specialist at their campus library may be able to suggest alternative content that is already online through library subscriptions, or publicly online content.


Attribution: [Abbey Elder] (2018, Jul.16) Attribution & Fair Use: Copyright in Open Education #1 [Video File]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/jGTUHdadqJU (CC-BY 4.0)

Brooklyn College' Library's Copyright Guide

CUNY Guides (External to Brooklyn College)

Fair Use and Copyright Resources (External to CUNY)

NOTE: All links will open up in a new tab or window external link.

Creative Commons Licenses Explained

NOTE: All links will open up in a new tab or window external link.

CC BY logoAttribution (CC BY)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work. All other uses are allowed.

This is the most open CC license.


CC BY-NC logo

Attribution / Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work. You are allowed to change the work, but you cannot use it for commercial purposes.


CC BY-SA logo

Attribution / ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work. You are allowed to make changes to the work, but any derivative works you create must also be released under a CC BY-SA license.


CC BY-NC-SA logo

Attribution / Non-Commercial / ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work. You are allowed to make changes to the work, but you cannot use it for commercial purposes,
and any derivative works you create must also be released under a CC BY-NC-SA license.


CC BY-ND logo

Attribution / Non-Derivative (CC BY-ND)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work, and prohibits you from making any changes to the work.


CC BY-NC-ND logo

Attribution / Non-Commercial / Non-Derivative (CC BY-NC-ND)

Requires you to attribute the source of the work, and prohibits you from making any changes to the work or using it for commercial purposes.

This is the most restrictive CC license.

Citing CC-Licensed Works

When using material from a CC-licensed work, your must include a citation that includes the title of the work, the author (if known), the source URL, and the CC license applied.

Example citation:
"Exit Sign" by David King (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Real world examples of licenses in use

To determine if you can use an item in your OER and if an item is an OER, you need to find the item's copyright declarations and/or CC licenses. These are often specified at the bottom of a webpage, though some resources specify them at the top.

NOTE: All links will open up in a new tab or window external link.

Attribution: [TheOGRepository] (2012, Sept. 5) Creating OER and Combining Licenses Part 1 Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/0LxD7xAcY3k (CC-BY)


Attribution: [TheOGRepository] (2012, Sept. 5) Creating OER and Combining Licenses Part 2 Retrieved from: https://youtu.be/y6RR29O4Rlo (CC-BY)

Acknowledgement

A large portion of this page is from "Open Educational Resources (OER) & Reed Library: Copyright v. Creative Commons" by Sophie Forrester at Daniel A. Reed Library, (CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0).