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Open Educational Resources: Copyright

A guide to finding free or low-cost curriculum resources.

Fair Use and Copyright Materials

In general, Copyright Law prohibits reproducing and distributing copyrighted works.  A simple way to provide access to copyright-protected materials is to link to them, rather than reproduce the content.  This works well for materials available in the library databases, as well as works available for free (but not freely licensed) on legitimate websites.

When linking is not possible, the "Fair Use Doctrine" (Section 107) allows a limited amount of copying for purposes such as teaching and scholarship. In determining whether the use made of a work in a particular case is a Fair Use, the factors to be considered 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.

Creative Commons Licenses

Can I use it?

 University of Minnesota Libraries “Decision Map” © 2011 CC-BY-NC 3.0

Intro to Open Licensing

This 6-minute introduction to the ins and outs of open licensing was created by Open Oregon.  The other video tutorials mentioned in the presentation are available from Open Oregon's YouTube page.

Creative Commons Licensing: Some Rights Reserved

Creative Commons licensing is at the heart of the OER movement. CC allows creators to specify more flexible forms of copyright that allows "others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work."  There are a range of options for the type of use that CC licenses allow:


Attribution Builder

The content on this guide has been adapted from Northern Michigan College's Open Educational Resources guide.

The content on this tab has been adapted from Portland Community College's OER - Open Educational Resources: Copyright guide.