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Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources are course materials that anyone can freely retain, revise, remix, reuse and redistribute.

What is open licensing?

OERs are either released under the terms of an open licence or are in the public domain. This gives users greater freedom to use material than is allowed under standard copyright rules. It's important to understand that just because something is available online doesn't mean it's an OER - it has to have an open license or be in the public domain.  

Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) are the most widely used open licence. There are six different types of licences that specify how the material can be used. Material with a CC licence is still copyright. It's important that you follow the licence conditions, if you don't then you won't be covered by the licence and your use may be in breach of copyright. The six CC licences are:

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)

Allows you to share and adapt the material as long as you provide an attribution, indicate if changes are made and identify the CC licence. This is the least restrictive of the CC licences.

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (CC BY-SA)

Allows you to share and adapt the material as long as you provide attribution, indicate if changes are made and identify the CC licence. Any adaptations that you make must be redistributed under the same licence.

Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial (CC BY-NC)*

Allows you to share and adapt the material as long as you provide attribution, indicate if changes are made and identify the CC licence. You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)*

Allows you to share and adapt the material as long as you provide attribution, indicate if changes are made and identify the CC licence. You may not use the material for commercial purposes and any adaptations that you make must be redistributed under the same licence.

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)^

Allows you to share the material as long as you provide attribution and identify the CC licence. You may not adapt the material.

Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)*^

Allows you to share the material as long as you provide attribution and identify the CC licence. You may not use the material for commercial purposes or adapt the material.

*Non Commercial (NC) licences: material with the NC element can be used in award courses but depending on the circumstances it may be inappropriate for professional development, executive education, micro credentialing and other non-award courses. 

^No Derivatives (ND) licences: material with the ND element does not meet the definition of an OER given that the material can't be revised or remixed. However, you can still use material in your teaching if it is unaltered.

If you are publishing your own open resource and would like to use a CC license, the CC License Chooser tool can help you select an appropriate license. The tool will also generate the text you should include in your work to let people know what license it has been published under.

Public domain material

Material in the public domain is not protected by copyright and can generally be used free of all copyright restrictions. Although, it's still best practice to provide an attribution where possible. There are two main categories of public domain material:

Copyright expired

This is material where the copyright has expired. Given that copyright lasts a very long time it only applies to very old material. As a standard rule, in Australia, copyright has expired in material where the creator died before 1955. However, copyright duration rules are complex with the type of material, publication status, and copyright owner all having an effect. View the copyright duration table for full details.

Creative Commons public dedication mark (CC0)

In addition to the licences, CC provides a public domain dedication tool which copyright owners can apply to their work. Material marked with the CC0 dedication indicates that the creator has waived their rights to the work and it can be used with no copyright restrictions.

Bespoke open licenses

Copyright owners can attach their own conditions to material allowing it to be used in the ways they specify instead of applying a standard open licence. This may be indicated on the material directly, e.g. on the copyright page of a report, or in the terms of use of a platform or website.

For example, Pixabay and Unsplash originally released all images on their platforms as CC0 but later switched to bespoke licences, these still allow unrestricted use for individual images but prohibit the creation of competing services.

Open source software licenses

Software has unique licensing requirements and there are a large range of open licence which have been developed to meet these needs and which would be considered suitable for OERs. The Open Source Initiative maintains a list of these licences.